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Last Updated : Jan 16, 2020 07:09 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Explained: The fissure between pharma industry & doctors' body over PM Modi's comment

The reason behind the controversy is a study co-authored by Dr Arun Gadra and Dr Archana Diwate, titled 'Promotional Practices of the Pharmaceutical Industry and Implementation Status of Related Regulatory Codes in India'.

Representative image
Representative image

The Indian Medical Association (IPA) and pharma industry are at loggerheads after a report mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned pharma companies against giving bribes to doctors.

IPA, representing pharma industry, has clarified that no such discussion took place at the meeting, ruling out the possibility of Prime Minister rebuking the companies while IMA isn't convinced. The doctors' body also sought clarification from the PMO.

The reason behind the controversy is a study co-authored by Dr Arun Gadra and Dr Archana Diwate, titled 'Promotional Practices of the Pharmaceutical Industry and Implementation Status of Related Regulatory Codes in India'. It documented unethical practices and failure of regulations while also offering suggestions to improve the exiting regulatory framework.

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The study is based on 50 in-depth and mostly anonymous interviews conducted across six cities, primarily involving medical representatives who are the front-line key persons on the field promoting drugs to doctors.

The report highlighted the direct deals between pharma companies and doctors, citing some cases, for instance, where pharma companies pay installments on a doctor's car purchase. There were extreme cases, where a few doctors even 'demand women for entertainment'.

The study's key findings point towards the trends in promotional strategies which have shifted from providing scientific information to doctors to merely focusing on business generation at all costs.

Use of tactics like inducement, emotional appeals, persuasions, serving family members, sponsorship for national and international conferences, pampering doctors, has become the norm. Newer, more innovative methods have come into practice over the years, such as providing prepaid cards, petro-cards, e-vouchers for online shopping on Amazon and Flipkart.

The Prime Minister Office (PMO) too note of several media reports based on the report. The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) called a meeting with pharma companies and other stakeholders and warned that if they don't comply with the Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP), the may have to bring a law to rein in such practices.

However, the study did not go down well with IMA.

IMA asked SATHI - the NGO that was behind the report to furnish evidence on the specific charges they made against the doctors who demanded women for entertainment and pharmaceutical companies that sponsored it. They asked government to investigate and take action against the erring doctors and companies, but not to malign the entire medical professional community.

Some chapters of IMA issued advisories to their fellow members not to accept the any gifts or other inducements from pharmaceutical companies.

Need for Regulation

The Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP) to regulate unethical promotional practices is non-functional on the ground. Medical representatives are hardly even aware about the UCPMP, while the study found that around 10 percent to 20 percent doctors follow the mandatory regulatory ethical codes for laid down for medical practitioners.

The government is aware of the rampant corruption in medical field for years, however it still leaves it to voluntary compliance of pharmaceutical companies and doctors.

The patient groups have been demanding that it's time the government should give teeth to the existing regulation by making the compliance to UCPMP mandatory.

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First Published on Jan 16, 2020 07:09 pm
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