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Govt Forms Panel to Review Marketing Practices of Pharma Firms, Sets 90-day Cut-off for Report

The five-member panel will be led by Dr VK Paul, member (health) at NITI Aayog as its chairman.

September 21, 2022 / 12:44 PM IST
Representative image (Source: https://www.pexels.com/)

Representative image (Source: https://www.pexels.com/)

To curb the bribing of doctors by pharmaceutical companies, the Narendra Modi government has made a high-level panel to review the marketing practices of drug-makers and examine the requirement for a legally enforceable mechanism, News18.com has learnt.

The five-member panel will be led by Dr VK Paul, member (health) at NITI Aayog as its chairman. The four other members are S Aparna, secretary of the department of pharmaceuticals; Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; Nitin Gupta, chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT); and a joint secretary (policy) from the department of pharmaceuticals.

The office memorandum issued on September 12 and accessed by News18.com is titled “Constitution of High Level Committee to consider various issues pertaining to Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) and examine the requirement for a legally enforceable mechanism for regulating marketing practices by Pharma Companies.”

The committee has been asked to submit its recommendation within 90 days.

The move to form a panel has been made on the recommendation of and approval from Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Chemicals & Fertilizers, Mansukh Mandaviya.

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WHAT WILL THE PANEL REVIEW?

The panel will review the existing code of conduct, the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP), which was rolled out in 2015 as a voluntary code to be adopted by all the major pharmaceutical associations.

The office memorandum, accessed by News18.com, said the code, at present, provides for the procedure of filing complaints, inquiry by the apex committees of the associations, penal actions, etc. to be taken by the pharmaceutical association of which the company is a member. However, it is not enforceable under any law or statute of the government.

The document also highlights the Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2002, which mention in detail about the relationship of healthcare professionals with pharmaceutical companies and prohibits the physicians/medical practitioners from committing such acts which are unethical in nature.

“The regulations also lay down the manner of enforcement in case complaints are received which are in violation of these regulations,” said the document, while noting that the National Medical Commission is the body to enforce these regulations.

It also mentions the latest development undertaken by CBDT and upheld by the Supreme Court that gifting of freebies by pharmaceutical companies to medical practitioners is not allowable expenditure under the Income Tax Act, 1961.

“Hence, to examine the issue holistically and align the interventions by various stakeholder departments and also to examine all the related issues on the requirement of a legally enforceable mechanism for regulating marketing practices, a High Level Committee is constituted…”

It further said that “the committee may co-opt members from other departments such as D/o Legal Affairs, etc. as and when required.”

WHAT ARE THE OBJECTIVES OF THE PANEL?

The panel, as per the memorandum, will “examine the various provisions of stakeholder departments with respect to pharmaceutical marketing practices and align the interventions for effective implementation among health cam providers and industry”.

It will also “examine the related issues on the requirement of legally enforceable mechanisms for regulating marketing practices, including study of the practices across the globe” and look at any other issues “as the committee may deem fit on the subject matter”.
first published: Sep 21, 2022 12:44 pm
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