The Central government is understood to be keen to evolve a mechanism to discourage drug companies from bribing doctors for favours. As a first step towards, the Union chemicals ministry has called a meeting of industry representatives on January 13. All the major pharma associations in the country have been asked to attend the meeting.

Official sources said that the government is seized of the issue in the wake of reports in a section of the media that several prominent pharmaceutical companies resort to this unethical marketing practice of offering incentives to the doctors for favours. The companies are learnt to be offering attractive holiday packages, both to domestic and international destinations to the doctors on meeting their target in prescribing their medicines. "There is serious concern about the issue in the government and it wanted to eradicate this malaise," a senior official said.

Faced with this public criticism that the government is silent on this grave issue of doctors being bribed to prescribe medicines, it now wanted to put in practice some kind of a mechanism to discourage the drug companies from doing this unethical trade practices. The chemicals ministry has asked the various industry associations to submit their inputs on the issue.

Recently, there were reports in the press that several prominent pharma companies are offering attractive holiday packages to the doctors for doing favours. Faced with a cut-throat competition, these companies tend to throw to the winds the ethical code of marketing that debars the pharmaceutical companies from extending incentives to the doctors for favours.

Interestingly, major associations like OPPI and IDMA have brought in ethical marketing codes for their members. But their adherence by the members has been far and few between.