Last Word

Contributed by:

Jesper Hollad, President North America, Novo Nordisk

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Pharma’s Health Mission

PV0615_JesperHoilandNovo Nordisk North America President Jesper Hoiland talks about the responsibility pharmaceutical companies have to society and the larger impact they can have on health and the environment.

PV: Why should pharmaceutical companies ­become involved in social issues?

Hoiland: We have a social responsibility. We have knowledge and the insight to do something that can change the world; we have to do what we can to improve a patient’s life. Of course, we also have to make money. That’s a part of what we call the Triple Bottom Line within Novo Nordisk. We believe our commitment to the Triple Bottom Line — social responsibility, environmental soundness, and economic viability — makes good business sense, so we have made it a top strategic priority. We take this philosophy one step further by producing an annual environmental and social report that accounts for the ways these values are put into practice within the Novo Group. We seek to minimize the ecological impact of our operations by developing more processes that minimize emissions and the consumption of energy and raw materials.

For example, we made a commitment to use less energy in 2020 than we did in 2010 and provide more clean water. As a part of the process of producing biologics, we are now producing more clean water than we take in.

PV0615_WorldDiabetesFoundationIn fact, my bonus will be reduced if I’m unable to reduce, for example, the energy intake of the company, as well as other environmentally related metrics. Senior management is penalized if we don’t conduct manufacturing in a responsible way.

PV: Novo Nordisk has also made a ­commitment to improving health of not only your ­employees but also society. What does this entail?

Hoiland: We have a program called NovoHealth to help employees live a much better life. NovoHealth is our worldwide employee wellness program. NovoHealth seeks to develop a workplace culture that promotes and supports healthy living for all employees. We try to encourage better health from the top down. I’ve made a commitment to come to work on my bike instead of a car. I’m going to challenge every employee in the company to beat me in any sport for fun and charity. I am going to encourage my management team to enforce healthy living, to walk around the building — a one-mile circuit — at lunch. We are going to encourage employees to move around more.

We are not trying to get employees to run marathons. The purpose is to help employees live a longer and more prosperous, healthier life.  We’re talking about reducing weight to have a better quality of life and reduce the cost to ourselves and also society. It is estimated that 24% of all healthcare costs in the United States are associated with obesity. Medications alone will not solve the obesity issue; there have to be accompanying educational programs, advice, and coaching.

We are providing healthier choices. Now the line for the salad bar is much longer than it used to be — and we’ve reduced the prices in the cafeteria.

Change is not going to happen overnight. Our employee base is a microcosm of society. NovoHealth is taking a very long view to understand what small changes can be enacted to lead to a healthier and more productive workplace, which in turn will help us be more productive for the patients we’re trying to serve.

PV: How are you taking an initiative such as this outside the company to the community?

Hoiland: I meet regularly with the executives of a number of big companies and we discuss how we can address obesity, including the concerns of payers. We field focus groups where we bring together HR people and medical officers to talk about what can we do to make people healthier. It is going to take long time to solve this problem. For me, it is about encouraging people to take that first step. Some people have never been to a fitness center. They don’t feel at home there. A call to fitness shouldn’t be based on a New Year’s resolution.
The pharmaceutical industry has a responsibility to not only provide disease awareness but also address healthy living. We have a huge responsibility to focus on medication compliance for those disease areas that we’re operating in. In diabetes specifically, having hemoglobin levels close to normal improves life expectancy and quality of life. With 29 million American suffering from diabetes or prediabetes today, we need to address this very large health issue.

PV: What global initiatives is the company working on to promote health?

Hoiland: We are involved with an organization called the World Diabetes Foundation, which is arm-linked to the company. It’s an independent foundation run by a number of chief diabetes physicians and others. It helps to provide healthcare infrastructure in various parts of the world. They have hundreds of initiatives to address diabetes. For example, the organization funds eye surgery for patients who have retinopathy, and helps patients who have gestational diabetes.(PV)


The World Diabetes Foundation

The World Diabetes Foundation was created in 2002 through a grant from Novo Nordisk with a vision to alleviate human suffering related to diabetes among those least able to withstand the burden of the disease. It is an independent and nonprofit foundation governed by the Danish Foundation Act to provide global advocacy in diabetes care and support healthcare in poorer nations. This includes changing political landscapes, other development and health priorities, health sector reforms, scarce financial and human resources, patient lifecycles, continuums of care, and new technologies.

Since its founding, the foundation has grown into a leading international funding agency supporting grassroots initiatives in the area of diabetes prevention and care.

To learn more about The World Diabetes Foundation, please visit

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