Pharma companies attempt to formulate guidelines to self regulate the widely prevalent practice of wooing doctors by giving lucrative gifts, has run into trouble.
The pharma association of small companies — SPIC has raised strong objections to the initial draft proposal. The association has also said it will continue to oppose any proposal till it has a legal binding or provide strict penalties for violating the regulations.
Pharma companies give expensive gifts and lucrative incentives such as organising foreign trips for doctors in return of prescribing their brands to patients.
On Wednesday, four associations of the pharma industry submitted a draft proposal of the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCMP) to the pharmaceuticals’ secretary Ashok Kumar.
The draft proposal was prepared by Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) and the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) that represents large and medium pharma companies and said that all pharma bodies have agreed upon the draft proposal.
But SPIC senior vice-chairman Lalit Kumar Jain said it does not agree with the draft. “The document is falsified with a view to hoodwink the public about safety, efficacy and affordable drugs,” he says.
Following wide criticism over the open secret of unethical practice used by pharma companies to give lucrative incentives to doctors to prescribe their brands, the government had asked the industry to formulate guidelines for self-regulation.
Unlike other consumer product, drug cannot be advertised and their sales are largely driven by prescription and recommendations of doctors. Most consumers are unaware of the chemical ingredients in a drug and cannot choose from brands available in the market.
Mr Jain said unless the code is legally binding, it won’t be effective.
When contacted, OPPI director general Tapan Ray said the draft proposal has been circulated to all industry bodies for feedback.
“The final draft will be submitted to the government only when all the industry bodies agree. But having laws is not the solution and so far no country in the world has such a law. It is the enforcement of the guideline that is important,” he said.
The initial draft mandates industry bodies to disclose the name of any member that violate the guidelines.
“Reputation of a company is at stake and this is the biggest deterrent,” he added.
SPIC has also raised objections to Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Srikant Kumar Jena informing the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that the uniform code of conduct has the consent of all the pharma associations.