DENMARK — Novo Nordisk’s CEO has apologized for breaching the UK industry code by not disclosing its sponsorship of obesity and weight management courses for healthcare professionals that also promoted its weight loss drug, per Financial Times.

Pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk has faced criticism from the UK self-regulatory watchdog for failing to reveal its sponsorship of online obesity and weight management training courses.

These courses included information about Novo’s weight loss medication, Saxenda, which was not officially sponsored but was perceived as a “disguised” promotional campaign by the watchdog.

Thousands of healthcare professionals participated in the webinars, which were organized by a third-party provider

The webinars, which were attended by thousands of healthcare professionals, included information on Novo’s weight loss medication, Saxenda, and were found to be biased in favor of the drug.

However, the UK self-regulatory watchdog criticized Novo Nordisk for failing to mention the potential side effects of Saxenda, while also highlighting side effects of other competing weight loss drugs.

Novo Nordisk CEO, Lars Fruergaard Jorgensen, has issued an apology, admitting that the lack of branding on the LinkedIn post promoting the courses was a “mistake”.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) is currently evaluating Novo Nordisk for any further action.

The company’s former general manager in the UK, Pinder Sahota, has stepped down from his position as ABPI president to avoid any distractions from the group’s “important work”.

The UK industry code allows for financial penalties as low as £4,000 (US$4,871) for breaching the code, but Novo Nordisk’s suspension from the ABPI would be a rare public rebuke.

Sidney Wolfe, founder of the health research organization Public Citizen, said that pharmaceutical companies have a history of covertly promoting their products under the guise of teaching.

Wolfe also stated that the current penalties are inadequate and that these potentially illegal yet profitable tactics will continue as a part of the company’s business model until stricter penalties and successful prosecutions of company executives are implemented.

Novo Nordisk is set to launch its weight loss drug, Wegovy, at pharmacies across the UK.

Farther afield, an FDA attorney has confirmed that the agency is investigating a complaint filed by a nonprofit physicians group regarding CBS’s 60 Minutes’ Jan. 1 broadcast on Novo Nordisk’s weight loss drug, Wegovy, according to Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine news release.

The group filed a complaint arguing that the segment, which aired after CBS received advertising payments from Novo Nordisk, violated the FDA’s “fair balance” requirement for ads and should be considered as an ad.

The Physicians Committee has asked for corrective measures, including the removal of the segment from the CBS website, a corrective ad about the side effects and risks of Wegovy, and an interview with an unbiased physician on weight loss strategies.

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