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Gift heat on docs for drugs advice

August 18, 2012

The government is all set to crack the whip on doctors found prescribing medicines of drug companies, in return of gifts or favours.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Friday that the ministry has received several complaints on this unholy nexus, and the matter has been referred to the Medical Council of India (MCI).
According to the MCI, it received 702 such complaints in 2011-12 of which 343 have been referred to state medical councils.
Registration of three such doctors has been temporarily removed and another doctor has been warned. Azad said 168 of these complaints are being investigated. In 2010-11, MCI received 824 such complaints following which they cancelled the registration of 10 doctors, warning four others.
The minister said the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices would be introduced soon. The code makes some key recommendations. It says the word “safe” cannot be used on a drug without qualification and it must be stated categorically that a medicine has no side-effects, toxic hazards or risk of addiction.
It says, “No gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind may be supplied, offered or promised to persons qualified to prescribe or supply by apharmaceutical company. Gifts for the personal benefit of healthcare professionals (such as tickets to entertainment events) also are not be offered or provided. Companies must not organize meetings to coincide with sporting, entertainment or other leisure events. Venues that are renowned for their entertainment must not be used.”
It adds, “Any hospitality offered to healthcare professionals must not be extended to spouses. Funding of healthcare professionals to compensate them for the time spent in attending the event is not permitted.”
Congress MP Jyoti Mirdha had recently complained to the Prime Minister’s Office that drug companies were indulging in unethical practices. Mirdha had demanded that instead of notifying a voluntary code of conduct for drug companies, the government should formulate a mandatory code of conduct.
Mirdha’s suggestion was backed by the steering committee on health, which also said that there is need for a mandatory code for identifying and penalizing unethical promotion on the part of pharmaceutical companies.
The committee, headed by Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, took the example of the Food and Drugs Administration of the US and how it has mandated strict regulations to curb unethical promotions. These include mandated disclosure by pharma companies of the expenditure incurred on drug promotion, ghostwriting in promotion of pharma products to attract disqualification of the author and penalty on the company and vetting by FDA of drug-related material in medical education.

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Categories: Public Health
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