"Make uniform code of pharma marketing practices mandatory"

| | New Delhi
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"Make uniform code of pharma marketing practices mandatory"

Tuesday, 21 January 2020 | Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

Amid the controversy over pharma firms allegedly ‘bribing’ medical professionals, the Alliance of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH), a network of  doctors from across the country has demanded that the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) framed five years ago be made mandatory.

“Presently, even after five years the code remains voluntary.  This is despite the fact that several medical organisations have demanded this repeatedly from the Government. The global experience also shows that voluntary code does not work”, said Dr GS Grewal, one of the ADEH members and former president- Punjab Medical Council, Ludhiana.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as published in a section of the media has warned pharmaceutical companies not to indulge in unethical practices and stop giving freebies to the doctors with a purpose to procure business. However, that any such deliberations occurred in the meeting with the Prime Minister has been denied by the pharmaceutical companies, said Dr Grewal.

He alleged that the companies spend crores of rupees through associations by sponsoring the medical conferences. “They spend huge amount on travel, accommodation and other expenditures on the doctors for lavish arrangements of the conferences.”

As per the clause 7.2 of the UCPMP “companies or their associations/representatives shall not extend any hospitality like hotel accommodation to healthcare practitioners and their family members under any pretext”.

The implied meaning of this is that even extending benefits to the doctors through associations is unethical. But this is being flouted with impunity, alleged Dr Arun Mitra, ENT specialist and former Chairperson, Ethics Committee of the PMC, Ludhiana.

It is also equally important that the any freebies from the pharmaceutical companies be made taxable. These were taxable earlier but the decision was reversed later by the Pune Bench of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, said the doctor.

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