Stop freebies to doctors from pharma companies
By The New Indian Express
10th August 2012 12:37 AM
It is a shocking transgression of medical ethics that despite a ban imposed by the Medical Council of India in 2009 on medical practitioners and their professional associations from taking any gifts, cash or monetary grant from pharmaceutical and allied health sector industries, the practice is continuing with impunity. Besides being against medical ethics this puts extra financial burden on patients as doctors prescribe costly medicines supplied by these pharmaceutical companies in preference to cheaper available alternatives. There is a tendency too for inappropriate and irrational prescriptions by doctors who are beholden to specific manufacturers.
Such malpractices stem from a shocking lack of accountability in the medical profession. There is poor deterrence against recalcitrant doctors and pharma companies as two and a half years after the amendment of the codes of ethics, no doctor has been penalised under it. There is a silver lining insofar as the Centre has decided to tax such expenses by pharma companies and also impose taxes on doctors who enjoy freebies. Only time will tell whether these are mere pious intentions or that they will be implemented in letter and spirit.
The 45th parliamentary standing committee report had recently recommended that appropriate regulations be added to the drugs and cosmetics rules to forbid the pharmaceutical manufacturers from offering such freebies that are prohibited under MCI rules. No action has been taken by the Department of Pharmaceuticals on the suggestion. As one of the members of the committee, Jyoti Mirdha, pointed out in a recent letter to the prime minister, a non-binding toothless code on marketing practices has been proposed that will not address the issue at all. Indeed, this issue cannot be allowed to drag on. The ban on doctors receiving freebies from pharma companies must be enforced strictly and deterrent punishment meted out to violating doctors as well as pharmaceutical firms.
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