AUTH/3545/7/21 - Complainant v Novo Nordisk

Use of business rate telephone number

  • Received
    22 July 2021
  • Case number
  • Applicable Code year
  • Completed
    08 September 2021
  • No breach Clause(s)
  • Breach Clause(s)
  • Sanctions applied
    Undertaking received
  • Additional sanctions
  • Appeal
    No appeal

Case Summary

A complainant who described him/herself as a concerned UK health professional, complained that on the Novo Nordisk Limited website for Saxenda (liraglutide) (, a premium telephone contact number was given for the reporting of side effects.

The complainant referred to Case AUTH/3281/11/19 which related to requiring patients and members of the public to pay for premium numbers to contact the company.

The complainant referred to the patient overview page of the Saxenda website which included under a heading ‘Reporting of side effects’ that, inter alia, ‘Adverse events should also be reported to Novo Nordisk Limited (Telephone Novo Nordisk Customer Care Centre 0845 …)’.

The complainant alleged that Novo Nordisk had failed to maintain high standards.

The detailed response from Novo Nordisk is given below.

The Panel considered that the common perception of an 0845 number was that it would incur an additional cost and that might, in itself, deter certain callers. Given the importance of a medical information service, particularly with regard to matters of patient safety and the reporting of side effects, the Panel considered that there should be no perceived barrier to patients wishing to use it; these telephone lines should be easily accessible. The Panel noted Novo Nordisk’s submission that before this complaint was received it had begun to introduce a freephone number and eventually the business rate number would cease to be used but that that process was not complete. The Panel noted Novo Nordisk’s submission that it was a major logistical challenge to update the number on materials currently in use and might present a patient safety issue if the line were suddenly no longer an option to use. Novo Nordisk submitted that the freephone number was on its corporate website, and had been updated on other relevant websites, including the eMC. In that regard, the Panel queried why the number had not been updated on the Saxenda website.

The Panel noted that when callers dialled the 0845 number they were told that calls would incur the caller’s network access charge (there was no additional service charge) but that they could alternatively use a freephone number which was provided. The Panel noted, however, that information about the cost of the 0845 call was not included in the statement on the Saxenda website and that some callers would not use it because of the expected cost of such (ie the access charge plus the service charge) and thus never hear the message about the freephone number.

In general terms, the Panel considered that given the potential deterrent effect that the use of an 0845 number might have on potential callers, it was particularly important that any associated charges (service and access) were made clear in all written material at the outset.

The Panel considered that, taking all the circumstances into account, the use of an 0845 number, in the absence of information on the website about the cost of such calls, might be perceived as a barrier to patients wishing to access Novo Nordisk’s medical information service and report side-effects to the company. In that regard, Novo Nordisk had failed to maintain high standards and the Panel ruled a breach of the 2021 Code.