Doctors violate MCI rules; take freebies from pharma companies

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Srinagar: Keeping the rules set by the Medical council of India at bay, the doctors in the Valley continue to take freebies worth lakhs of rupees to increase the sales of pharma companies.

It is worth to mention here that Medical Council of India imposed ban on doctors from taking any gifts, cash or monetary grant from medical and allied health sector industries.

According to Medical Council of India (MCI) rules, a medical practitioner shall not accept any travel facility inside the country or outside, including rail, air, ship, cruise tickets, paid vacations etc. from any pharmaceutical or allied healthcare industry or their representatives for self and family members for vacation or for attending conferences, seminars, workshops, CME programme as a delegate.

However, reliable sources in the health department informed Press Trust of Kashmir that the menace goes unabated in the Valley with doctors taking freebies worth lacs of rupees to increase the sales of pharma companies.

Reliable sources told PTK the doctors also opt either for cash or goods. “Some of the most popular gifts are home appliances. Value of the freebies climbs up when the potential of the doctor is high in promoting the drugs or in prescribing investigations at the diagnostic laboratories,” they added.

The sources also added that the tours of doctors are also sponsored by different pharmaceutical companies.

A former health service doctor said that drugs for diabetes, hypertension and chronic renal diseases are the fast-moving drugs and in large volumes. “These drugs face the toughest competition in the market because of the large varieties available, and a doctor can be a big help in pushing up the sale of a favourite one,” he said.

Another category of drugs that face tough competition is antibiotics. Cancer drugs and psychotropic drugs are others that require long-term use, bringing more brands and competition and price ranges, the doctor maintained.

However, it is a fact that not all medical practitioners take the gifts distributed by pharmaceutical companies.

A senior doctor posted in the SMHS hospital said that most of the doctors in rural areas went for affordable medicines. “We have to look at the patients in total. There might not be compliance to the prescription if the patient cannot afford the medicines,”

However, doctors in urban areas may not know their patients’ backgrounds and may prescribe costly medicines for some who may not be able to afford them, thereby indirectly serving the interests of the pharmaceutical companies.

 “It is a well-known fact that most pharmaceutical companies are spending more money on marketing activity than their research. Such activities by pharmaceutical or allied health sector companies definitely lead to a situation where a section of doctors prescribes unwanted costly medicines or investigations to meet the target of diagnostic laboratories and pharma companies said one of the doctors.

It is more difficult to manage doctors than a hospital, says a hospital administrator who has control over one well known hospital. “The doctors are not happy if the hospital decides to have its own drug policy. They insist on having their meetings with medical representatives, he said and added that the laboratories too offer commissions if we send in more work to them.

Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations have already declared it unlawful for doctors to receive gifts and freebies from drug-marketing companies.

The medical experts opine that such malpractices stem from lack of accountability in the medical profession. They say there is a poor deterrence against recalcitrant doctors and pharma companies. (PTK)

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