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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 18967

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

Ram T
MCI penalises IMA brass for product endorsement deals
The Times of India 2010 Nov 20

Full text:

After more than two years of arguments at different fora over the Indian Medical Association (IMA) endorsing two food products in violation of its own ethics and Medical Council of India (MCI) regulations, the MCI has decided to remove the IMA secretary and president from the Indian medical register for six months.

The action means that the doctors will not be able to practise for six months. The MCI has also decided to send censure letters to all 187 IMA executive committee members “to not repeat such practices in future”. This is the first time in the history of the IMA, which represents two lakh doctors in the country, that the names of its office-bearers would be removed from the register. The MCI ethics committee meeting on November 9 took the decision, which was later ratified by the board of directors. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced the MCI decision in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Friday. The IMA had, in April 2008, signed a Rs 2.25-crore contract with Pepsico to allow Tropicana juice and Quaker oats to use its logo on their packs for three years. The controversy was triggered by Dr KV Babu, an IMA central committee member, who complained to MCI on June 6, 2008, and followed it up with RTI applications that brought out details of endorsements.


April ’08 | IMA signs Pepsico endorsement deal

June 6, ’08 | Dr KV Babu files complaint with MCI

July 29, ’09 | Dr Babu approaches CIC

Aug 18, ’10 | MCI serves show-cause notice to IMA

Nov 9, ’10 | MCI ethics committee decides IMA’s decision was unethical

Nov 19, 2010 | Health minister announces action against IMA office bearers Doctors confused over health min’s statement in House

Chennai: Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad’s announcement in the Lok Sabha on MCI action against IMA secretary and president set off hushed discussions in medical circles on Friday as to which names would be removed from the Indian medical register – those who were office-bearers when the deal was signed or those holding charge now.

“There is no clarity on that. We will seek clarity from the ministry,” IMA secretary Dr Dharam Prakash told TOI. “Anyway, it is an unfair decision since the president and secretary had signed on behalf of the organisation and not in their personal capacity. An emergency meeting of the IMA working committee on Saturday will decide on the future course of action,” he said. A clarification on the names to be removed from the medical register is significant since the deal was signed in April 2008, during a transition phase of the IMA leadership. Dr Ajai Kumar was the IMA president and Dr SN Mishra the secretary when the Pepsico deal was finalised, but it was signed after Dr Mohammed Abbas took over as the president. Dr SN Mishra continued as the secretary. Dr Babu, the original complainant against the IMA, said his goal was not action against IMA office-bearers but putting an end to the endorsements, which were against basic medical ethics. “I hope such endorsements will now come to an end forever,” he said. Though the complaint was filed in 2008, there was not much progress till the National Human Rights Commission served notice on IMA on June 30, 2010. There was also confusion whether the MCI had powers over the IMA. On August 18, the MCI declared that the IMA did come under its jurisdiction and served a showcause notice “for endorsing the product in violation of provision of Indian Medical Council ( Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002”. In its reply, dated August 30, the IMA argued that it had not endorsed the products, but only entered into an MoU with Pepsico for a “nutritional awareness programme”. The MCI rejected the argument and pronounced the IMA guilty of unethical practice. In a similar case in 1988, the American Medical Association (AMA) had to pay $9.9 million (Rs 45 crore) to withdraw from a contract it signed with Sunbeam Corporation. While that was an endorsement of medical equipment, the IMA became the first professional body of doctors in the world to endorse a food product.


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