Danish pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk is being accused of engaging in a “white coat marketing scheme” to entice doctors to prescribe three of its diabetes drugs — NovoLog, Levimir, and Victoza.
Together these three drugs made Novo Nordisk $US6 billion in sales in 2013, comprising 10% of the company’s worldwide sales for the year, according to the complaint.
Specifically, whistleblowers allege that the company illegally hired Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs) and employed them as sales reps, and then sent them into doctors offices to promote the drug through its “Changing Life with Diabetes Program.”
The suit claims that, because the company’s sales reps were titled as CDEs, they got unprecedented access to doctors. However, “they were sales representatives in every way except title.”
Once inside the CDE’s allegedly educated doctors for free. Novo Nordisk, for its part, is a member of the powerful PhRMA lobby, which prohibits member companies from exchanging free medical education for prescriptions.
The government is jumping in because these drugs are all covered by federal health insurance programs — Medicaid, Medicare, and Tricare. And the suit could be a sign that, in an effort to reduce costs, the government is focusing on its reimbursement of drugs.
Novo Nordisk has responded to Business Insider’s request for comment with the following statement:
“In February 2011, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts served Novo Nordisk with a subpoena calling for the production of documents regarding potential civil and criminal offences relating to the company’s marketing and promotional practices for the following products: NovoLog®, Levemir® and Victoza®. This matter is being conducted by the US Attorney for the District of Columbia. We’ve reached an agreement in principle to settle certain claims related to this investigation, and the unsealing is a part of that process. The process is not finalised, and as such we can’t provide further comment to this matter at this time.”
Here’s the full text of the complaint:
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