Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk is facing charges by Swedish authorities that it treated hospital staff to an all-expenses-paid conference trip to South Africa in December 2006.
Novo Nordisk’s Swedish subsidiary has already been fined 80,000 Swedish krona for having sent 150 hospital employees on a conference trip that was deemed to be ‘tourist in nature’ by the Swedish pharmaceutical watchdog IGM.
But Swedish state prosecutor Nils-Erik Schultz will now look into why Novo Nordisk, one of the world’s largest producers of insulin, invited four diabetes doctors and four diabetes nurses from Malmö University Hospital on the trip.
‘The question is “Why has it been so generous to the doctors?” Is it is because it wanted them to support Novo Nordisk and its drug? If that’s so, then there could be grounds for charging Novo with bribery and the doctors with corruption,’ Schultz told Jyllands-Posten newspaper.
Swedish law requires taxpayers to pay half the cost of such trips, and Novo Nordisk documents, according to Swedish daily Sydsvenskan, show that it did pay only half of the 50,000 krona that each trip cost.
But the state prosecutor believes that Novo Nordisk could have footed the entire bill with funding it gave the university to conduct medical experiments.
According to Sydsvenskan, authorities will also investigate whether family members were invited on the trip, whether it included non-professional activities and whether Novo Nordisk offered to foot the bill for a holiday in the area after the conference.
‘It is important that we as taxpayers can count on doctors not being influenced. Choices about medicines should be objective, and not influenced by a memorable trip,’ Schultz said.
Novo Nordisk declined to comment on the charges, citing the on-going nature of the investigation.
Novo Nordisk has previously faced bribery charges in connection with the UN’s Oil for Food programme in Iraq. Although it settled out of court and agreed to pay 130 million kroner to US and Danish authorities, it is named as one of 70 companies in a $10 billion lawsuit brought by the Iraqi government in New York.