Manufacturers of paracetamol drug ‘Dolo’ that became a go-to option for fever during the COVID-19 pandemic have landed themselves in trouble for offering freebies to doctors. Medical representatives told the Supreme Court on Thursday that the company spent over Rs 1,000 crore on freebies to doctors to prescribe Dolo-650 to patients.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, who appeared for Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India, citing a report by Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), told the bench, “Over Rs 1,000 crore freebies have been given by Dolo company for the 650 mg formulation. The doctors were prescribing an irrational dose combination.”
Justice DY Chandrachud who was heading the bench said that he was also prescribed the drug when he had COVID-19. The bench that also comprised Justice AS Bopanna called it a serious issue.
The PIL by the association has raised questions on the control of drug formulations and prices of medicines. The court has asked the Centre to file its response to the PIL within a week.
"This is a serious issue. It should not be treated as adversarial litigation," stated the bench. The matter will next be heard in 10 days.
The PIL seeks to make pharmaceutical companies liable for giving freebies to doctors as an incentive to prescribe their drugs. It also demands a statutory backing to the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP), further arguing that currently there is no law or regulation prohibiting such practices.
Sanjay Parikh told India Today, "Unnecessary pharmaceuticals are prescribed by doctors in return for freebies given by pharma companies. The UCPMP code has been created to tackle this problem. The menace is increasing day by day."
The lawyer said that Dolo is just an example, since it is the most recent case. "For 500 mg paracetamol, pricing is prescribed by the drug pricing authority. But when you increase it to 650 mg, then it goes beyond the controlled price. That's why it is being promoted so much. This was an example of freebies. There are more antibiotics in the market that are being promoted in different combinations even when they are not required. There must be a statutory framework to control drug formulations," he said.
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