New Delhi: The Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) has asked industry lobbies and associations to make sure that pharma companies adhere to marketing norms during their conferences, a directive that comes amid a clear failure on the part of the companies to regulate themselves.
In a letter dated February 4, the DoP said it had received complaints that pharma companies “arrange hotels, accommodations, local sightseeing” in conferences conducted by doctors.
Asking the lobbies to ensure that no unethical promotion of pharma products is done during conferences, it said companies must adhere to the Universal Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) during the upcoming annual conferences of Indian Psychiatric Society, which are to be held in Kolkata and Visakhapatnam.
The UCPMP is being voluntarily adopted by pharmaceutical companies since 2015. However, concerns over pharmaceutical companies offering gifts to influence medical professionals have erupted from time to time.
A recent study by non-governmental organisation (NGO) Sathi (Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives) claimed that “promotional practices of the pharmaceutical industry and implementation of status of related regulatory codes in India lacked credibility”. It said medical representatives had disclosed widespread use of bribes, including foreign trips, microwave ovens, expensive smartphones, jewellery and even women, by pharmaceutical companies.
Simultaneously, another NGO blamed a well-known Swiss drug maker for providing inducements in the form of honorariums for participation in conferences, travel assistance, accommodation and food expenses, all of which are strictly prohibited under the UCPMP as well as the Indian Medical Council (Professional conduct, Etiquette and Ethics), Regulations 2002. A complaint in this regard was sent to the DoP.
The DoP has been dragging its feet on the draft legislation, aimed at increasing transparency in financial relationships between healthcare providers and pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as deterring unethical practices, since 2016.