Hyderabad: When it comes to promoting their drugs, some pharmaceutical companies cast aside the voluntary code set by the Central government. Gifts to doctors, free trips for conferences and pleasure trips are some of the promotional methods resorted to by these companies.
Doctors and their family members attending medical conferences abroad or going on foreign jaunts are some of the common instances which the department of pharmaceuticals has been struggling to curb in its bid to crack down on unethical promotion of new drugs.
A senior drug control officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “When 20 doctors from different cities are taken on a tour to the United States and Europe with their families, it is enough for us to check the reason behind the benevolence being showered on them. Why do the doctors and their families go to 10 different cities when the conference is in one city?”
These questions have been raised from time to time, instead of following the code or setting up a complaint committee, the companies are trying to scuttle the issue, the official said.
Also, expensive gifts like cars, mobile phones, accommodations in luxury hotels and expensive lunch and dinner coupons are being looked into by drug controllers as these gifts can be counted as unfair marketing practices.
According to the voluntary code in existance since 2011, any personal benefit to the doctor or his extended family by a pharma company is considered a bribe.
A senior drug control officer said, “Our key targets are diabetologists, endocrinologist and general physicians as they are the ones who prescribe diabetes, hypertension and hormonal drugs which have unbelievably high profit margins.”
He said that there are cheaper options for these drugs available, but most patients are never told about this, and they end up paying huge money for their monthly medicines.
“This practice has to be curbed as buying medicines has become a very expensive affair for many families,” the officer said. Also, the department of pharmaceuticals is looking into the pricing of implants like knee and cardiac stents.
A senior officer said: “Orthopaedics and cardiologists also are being closely watched. We scrutinise the cost of these products and the benefit that the companies give to the doctors.”
The government has extended the voluntary code by six months and plans to introduce a mandatory Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices. A major clause of this code will be penalty on doctors and pharma firms....