Pharma firms may bend rules for doctors

Pharma firms may bend rules for doctors

Loopholes galore in proposed code of ethics

Pharma firms may bend rules for doctors

The Centre’s proposed code of ethics for pharmaceutical companies has several loopholes, which could be exploited by drug companies to continue their indirect influence on a large section of doctors.

Framed under the provisions of the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, the yet-to-be-notified code seeks to break the existing nexus between doctors and drug firms, which push for their products in violation of medical ethics.

The Essential Commodities (Control of Unethical Practices in Marketing of Drugs) order 2017 has provisions prohibiting sponsorship by pharmaceutical companies and the common practice of doctors receiving expensive gifts from medical representatives.

It also seeks to bar companies from sponsoring the travel, accommodation and food expenses for doctors and their family members in India and aboard in the garb of attending seminars and continuing medical education and scientific meetings. There is a strict no on companies handing out cash cards and gift hampers to doctors and their family members.

The companies can fund seminars organised by medical associations, provided these associations maintain a register of the sponsorships for government scrutiny. The register is to be maintained for three years.

The proposed code envisages appointment of an ethics compliance officer of the rank of a joint secretary to oversee such malpractices.

“It is one of the loopholes. There is no monitoring system to check malpractices,” said Dr G S Grewal, who is based in Ludhiana. Grewal is also former president of the Punjab Medical Council.

While the Medical Council of India has an existing code for doctors, known as the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, the new code is meant for pharmaceutical companies.

However, even the MCI’s ethics code for doctors is poorly implemented.

The new code keeps the booming medical device industry outside its ambit, which has been opposed by doctors. Though it lists financial penalties and seizure of stocks as punishment for violating marketing codes, it is not clear how these punishment provisions would be implemented.

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