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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 16926

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.

 

Publication type: news

Mudur GS
Cracks in doctor freebies code
The Telegraph 2009 Dec 9
http://www.telegraphindia.com/1091210/jsp/frontpage/story_11846153.jsp


Full text:

Drug companies in India will be prohibited from handing out cash or gifts or stand-alone entertainment to doctors under a code of ethics proposed by industry associations to govern the marketing of medicines.

But the code has run into rough weather even before it has been adopted, with at least two industry associations disassociating themselves from the document, tabled at a meeting called today by the government’s department of pharmaceuticals.

The two associations, however, said they were not against having a code. The Small and Medium Pharma Industries Confederation (SPIC) said it wanted a legally enforceable code rather than a voluntary one. The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), whose members account for half the revenues from medicine sales in India, said it hadn’t seen the document and didn’t know what it contained.

The Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices, however, lists six associations as signatories, including the SPIC and the IPA.

It bans companies from providing doctors cash, gift certificates or personal gifts including music CDs, DVDs, other electronic items and sport and entertainment tickets. It also bans standalone entertainment, leisure or social activities.

The move by the industry bodies, under government prodding, follows years of concern among health activists and even some doctors that the marketing practices of drug companies in India have transgressed ethics. In recent years, several doctors and other health professionals have cautioned that the incentives provided by companies to influence prescriptions made by doctors could lead to higher treatment costs for patients.

The incentives have ranged from an evening cruise with food and drinks for doctors and their families on the Hooghly to all-expenses-paid foreign trips and the payment of instalments for cars, according to doctors and medical representatives familiar with promotional practices.

But the proposed code sanctifies the current practice of sponsorship, foreign travel, and hospitality, linking them to conferences aimed at providing doctors with scientific or educational information about products.

A company should not sponsor travel to a foreign country “unless it is appropriate and justified to do so from the logistical point of view”, it says without explaining. It justifies international conferences when participants from many countries are involved.

“This is a complete eyewash,” said Lalit Jain, SPIC vice-president. “We want something with legal teeth, not just a voluntary code.”

The six signatories listed by the document are the Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry, Federation of Pharmaceutical Entrepreneurs, Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA), Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India, SPIC and the IPA.

“We haven’t even seen this code; so we have no clue what it contains,” said Dilip Shah, IPA secretary-general. “But we’re adopting our own code of ethics that was developed by the IDMA.”

 

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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909