Compliance

As part of our long-standing commitment to ethics and good corporate citizenship, we adopt policies and procedures that facilitate compliance with the laws and regulations that govern the way we market and sell our medicines, vaccines and other products.

Resources

 

We have a well-established global ethics and compliance program that is consistent with the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) Code of Practice requirements, as well as with other applicable regional or country industry codes of conduct, including those issued by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

Our company’s Board of Directors and senior management, including the chief ethics and compliance officer and members of the Corporate Compliance Committee, provide the foundational elements of leadership, accountability and structure to oversee the company’s global ethics and compliance program.

The chief ethics and compliance officer reports directly to our company’s CEO and provides regular quarterly updates to the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors on key indicators of ethical culture. This reporting structure supports open communications with senior leadership regarding important developments that relate to ethics and compliance.

Office of Ethics

Our company’s Office of Ethics was established over 20 years ago to protect and promote the company’s values and standards on a global basis by developing and overseeing initiatives designed to deter illegal, unethical and improper behavior related to the company’s business. The Office of Ethics is responsible for ensuring that employees are aware of and trained on the Code of Conduct and company policies.

The Office of Ethics serves as a channel for the receipt and investigation of ethics and compliance-related concerns. Employees are encouraged to raise their concerns to their management, Human Resources, Compliance, Legal or the Office of Ethics. Throughout 2018 and 2019, the Office of Ethics enhanced its global ethics program including the implementation of an improved reporting tool operated by an independent third party, named Speak Up at msdethics.com. The global Speak Up Tool (formerly theadviceline.com) is available 24/7 and allows employees to raise concerns or ask questions confidentially (where permitted by law) in their preferred language via phone or internet.

In alignment with our priority to protect and enhance our company’s reputation through safe, ethical and compliant behaviors, the Office of Ethics added three Regional Ethics Officers to its team and established a network of site-based volunteer Ethics Ambassadors outside of the United States.

PHoto of doctors looking at something

Addressing misconduct

It is our policy to maintain a work environment where all employees are expected to report ethical and compliance concerns that are potentially inconsistent with the company’s Code of Conduct and policies. Our company is committed to maintaining a process for escalation and investigation of potential compliance-related concerns.

Retaliation against employees who report such concerns is a violation of corporate policy and will not be tolerated. The Office of Ethics and the Office of Global Investigations are responsible for oversight of the global processes for managing investigations into potential ethics and compliance concerns to ensure consistent and timely resolution of potential concerns and implementation of remediation actions. When we substantiate allegations of ethical misconduct, we take appropriate disciplinary actions to ensure that those who were responsible are held accountable.

Disciplinary actions can include dismissal from the company, issuance of final written warning letters or financial penalties. In addition, we take appropriate steps to address any needed improvements in organizational and process controls.

We also maintain a policy that will give our company the discretion to recoup incentive payments made to employees in certain instances. This policy will apply when a senior leader engages in misconduct or fails to reasonably supervise an employee who engages in misconduct that results in a material policy violation relating to the research, development, manufacturing, sales or marketing of company products where the policy violation causes significant financial or reputational harm to the company.

Annual ethics and policy certification

An important component of our corporate ethics and compliance program is our annual ethics and policy certification. The annual review process requires selected company employees to certify adherence to corporate policies on preventing bribery and corruption, antitrust-law compliance, and conflict-of-interest and insider trading. These employees are also expected to regulate their outside activities to avoid any conflicts of interest, and to certify, in writing, whether actual or potential conflicts of interest exist.

Where potential conflicts are identified, the Office of Ethics will work with management to take actions to mitigate the potential conflict. In addition, all U.S.-based employees must certify compliance with our corporate policy on the effects of exclusions, debarments, suspensions and health care-related criminal convictions, reporting and screening.

Performance

OFFICE OF ETHICS2015 2016 2017 2018
Employees trained on the Code of Conduct training series99% 100% 100% 99%
Employees who responded to the disclosure statement on the Conflicts of Interest form100% 100% 100% 100%
Concerns brought to the company's attention, such as employees seeking guidance and coaching (most often relating to manager or coworker relations) and guidance on conflict of interest or Code of Conduct issues.484 389 432 526
Allegations involving noncompliance with company policy investigated638 479 550 493
Ratio of substantiated allegations to concerns/issues raised58% 55% 60% 52%
Employees separated related to substantiated corporate policy violations1 156 123 132 122
Employees who received written warnings as disciplinary actions resulting from a substantiated concern148 137 90 102
1 This data represents investigations conducted on a companywide basis.