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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 16981

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

Mathew JC
Small drug firms cry foul over ethics code
Business Standard 2009 Dec 27

Full text:

A common ‘ethical marketing practices code’ for drug makers in the country is unlikely in the near future despite the latest attempts of the government’s department of pharmaceuticals to evolve such a code.

The smaller players in the business – combined under the Small Pharmaceutical Industries Confederation (SPIC) – have raised objections to the proposed Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCMP).

This code has been finalised at the behest of the department of pharmaceuticals by industry associations such as Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) and Indian Drugs Manufacturers Association (IDMA).

The department of pharmaceuticals initiated the latest move after taking note of a series of complaints against unhealthy marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies. After preliminary discussions with industry associations, the department asked OPPI to consult other stakeholders and prepare a common code of conduct to be followed voluntarily.

The OPPI submitted UCMP last month, among complaints by some stakeholders that they had not been consulted.

The code proposes a bar on incentives to doctors to prescribe medicines. It also puts a check on foreign junkets, disguised as scientific conferences, for doctors.

SPIC has objected to the draft code prepared by other stakeholders saying that it is unworkable in its current form.

“In spite of the code, there are complaints about marketing practices. What we require is not a fresh code that is voluntary but a code that is legally binding,” says Jagdeep Singh, secretary general of SPIC.

The small players also feel that the code is just an “eye wash” as there are already codes of ethics announced by individual organisations.

For instance, OPPI, the lobby of multinational pharmaceutical firms in India, has adopted the code put out by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), the global entity of which OPPI is an affiliate.

UCMP, compiled by OPPI, is a watered down version of the IFPMA code, industry observers say. Other organisations, such as, IDMA and Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industries (CIPI) have also their own codes for a long time.

SPIC wants the government to stop giving income tax sops to all promotional expenses to medicines that have been in the market for more than five years. It also wants a ban on the change of ingredients under a brand name. These two, Singh says, indirectly aid high promotional expenses which then get reflected in the prices of medicines.

Senior ministry officials did not comment on the status of a common code, but expressed the hope that the associations will reach at a consensus.


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