Govt moots ethical code for pharma firms, doctors

By jpgupta |

18th May 2012

The move is aimed at restricting medical practitioners from prescribing drugs of a particular brand

New Delhi: The Centre has proposed a uniform code for pharmaceutical companies to restrict medical practitioners from prescribing drugs of a particular brand.

Treating it as an attempt to compromise on the interest of patients in lieu of incentives given by doctors, the Department of Pharmaceuticals has prepared the draft policy—Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP).

The proposed policy, the draft of which has been put on the department’s website for inviting comments of stakeholders, aims at reducing direct implications on the pricing of drugs and its affordability.

Informed sources in the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare said that the UCPMP would be introduced as voluntary mechanism at the first instance.

However, the government would be forced to take harsh step of the doctors continued indulging in compromising on patients’ interest to promote the brand of any particular drug companies.

It has been observed that despite there being a code of ethics in the Indian Medical Council Rules forbidding doctors from accepting any gift, hospitality, trips to foreign and domestic destinations etc., from healthcare industry, there is no let-up in this practice.

The pharma companies continue to sponsor foreign trips of many doctors and shower with high value gifts to obliging prescribers who then prescribe costlier drugs as quid pro quo.  Ultimately all these expenses get added up to the cost of drugs.

The issue has been a cause of serious concern for the Government since the practice is not limited to private practitioners but has also crept deeply into the public health care delivery system being operated by the Government, which has increased the expenditure of the Government. 

The practice is also responsible for promotion of irrational use of medicines in the country which has very dangerous consequences in the long run.

Aggrieved with the situation, the Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 were amended by Medical Council of India (MCI) in 2009 by inserting a new clause which states that a medical practitioner shall not endorse any drug or product of the industry publically. 

The amendment provided for a number of do’s and don’ts for medical practitioners in relation to their interaction with the Pharma companies and forbidding them from receiving gifts, hospitality etc., from them.

In addition, the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has from time to time issued circulars/ instructions to all Government hospitals, CGHS dispensaries as well as the State Governments to promote prescription of generic medicines by their doctors to the maximum extent possible.

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