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Planning Commission recommends mandatory code of conduct for pharma companies

Joseph Alexander, New Delhi
Monday, April 16, 2012, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Even as the effort by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) to finalise a voluntary code of conduct for pharma companies to curb unethical practices by healthcare practitioners and drug makers alike has been stuck for over an year, the Planning Commission has strongly advocated making such a code mandatory.

“Pharmaceutical marketing and aggressive promotion also contributes to irrational use. There is a need for a mandatory code for identifying and penalizing unethical promotion on the part of pharma companies,’’ according to the report of the Steering Committee on health by the Planning Commission.

“The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) of the US has mandated strict regulations to curb unethical promotions. These include mandated disclosure by pharmaceutical companies of the expenditure incurred on drug promotion, ghost writing 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 Continuing Medical Education,” the report said.

“To avoid medical conflicts of interest, the US Government is proposing to bring in a law that would require drug companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. Such practices can be replicated in India,” the panel said.

In the face of growing complaints about the drug manufacturers offering freebies to the doctors to push up sales, the DoP took the initiative to frame a uniform code of conduct which is voluntary in nature. While the public interest organisations pressed for making it mandatory and punitive, the drug industry opposed the move. After drafting and publishing the code, it is still stuck without any progress.

The draft code of conduct, which lays down several restrictions on companies, says companies cannot offer or promise gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind to physicians or suppliers. Besides, companies also can't sponsor doctors or their family members' travel, entertainment, sporting or leisure events, directly or indirectly.


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