A set of common guidelines binding on all pharma companies or a joint mechanism of the sort by the industry may be evolved soon to curb the unethical trade practices of inducing doctors for favours by some companies, thanks to a belated but strong resolve by the government to reign in on the practice.

Stung by public criticism and concern by the government, the leading pharma associations have agreed to come up with more effective ethical guidelines and discuss the matter again in a bid to draft some common guidelines or joint mechanism in this regard. At a meeting called by the pharmaceutical department secretary other day and attended by all associations and CEOs of some major companies, they have decided to meet again sometime in April to thrash out common guidelines, it is learnt.

In the wake of recent media reports which prompted the government to call the meeting, pharma secretary expressed strong concern on the practice and government desire to see the industry taking some voluntary steps to curb it. Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) and Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) had said that they have a code of ethics for the members and the promotional expenses by them were below 9 per cent on an average. The same was spent on promotion on products.

However, taking a serious stand on the practices secretary Ashok Kumar had learnt to have cited different instances he came across in person to prove how pharma companies were extending undue favours for doctors and families. Even the doctors were prescribing drugs merely to complete their targets by the end of the month and win the favours, the associations were told.

The associations will be sending their own codes of ethics in a month to the government and another meeting will be held in April and hopefully better or more effective step will be taken in bridling the companies from such unethical practices, sources said. Or at least the associations may share the same platform to issue a joint and sterner directive to all pharma companies to discourage the practice which has been thriving for long in the country at the expense of patients. Sources also pointed out that government will think of acting sternly at some point of time, given the response of the associations.