November 25, 2009

Docs told not to accept gifts from drug cos

The global association of doctors World Medical Association (WMA) has asked physicians to refrain from taking gifts, including hard cash from drugmakers, as an incentive to promote their medicines to the patients. It is part of a resolution passed by WMA outlining the guidelines for doctors to follow while dealing with pharma companies.

The advisory issued during a recent WMA meeting in Delhi comes at a time when the domestic pharma companies and medical bodies are in the process of finalising a detailed marketing code of conduct to curb the practice of pharma companies paying doctors to prescribe their medicines. The Indian government had recently asked the drug industry to self regulate so that the interests of the patients are not compromised.

The Rs 36,000-crore Indian drug retail market is fiercely competitive, with the largest player having a meagre 5% market share. Globally, drugmakers are not allowed to advertise their prescription drugs, or medicines that can only be bought on a doctors prescription. As a result, the success of a medicine largely depends on the recommendation of doctors.

The WMA guidelines has asked doctors to refrain from taking expensive personal gifts designed to influence clinical practice, payments in cash or cash equivalents from companies, payment to cover travelling expenses or room for conference or compensation for their time, and declare financial support they get from companies.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), representing doctors in the country, and the domestic drugmakers associations say they agree with the WMA resolution in-principle. IMA secretary general Dharam Prakash said: “Once you take a gift or travel at somebody’s expense, you would be obliged to return the favour, which means promoting a company’s brand. The resolution should curtail the practice of drugmakers to unethically promote their drugs.”

“In many areas, the WMA statement is similar to our code of conduct for marketing practices. This is a good step in the right direction,” said Tapan Ray, director general at the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, a group that represents the interests of large drugmakers in the country.

Most doctors in the country accept gifts and incentives in various forms to promote a particular company’s products. Industry experts such as CM Gulati, a veteran with medical regulations, feels the resolution will be ineffective and it is an attempt by the medical fraternity and industry bodies to prevent the government from regulating the drugmakers marketing practice.

“Both the doctor and industry are interested parties who benefit from the current practice, the consumers interest is not represented. The industry bodies are toothless and can’t take any punitive action, so the question of self-regulation is a hogwash,” he says.

Link: Original Article

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