The Medical Council of India (MCI), a body that registers doctors, has initiated some radical steps to shore up the ethical standards in the medical fraternity. It plans to crack down on doctors who accept freebies from pharmaceutical companies. In December 2009, MCI had debarred doctors from accepting gifts and now it has prescribed severe action against those not toeing the line. We take a look at what has been proposed and the implications.
For long, doctors have been treated to foreign junkets and expensive gifts by pharma companies to push everything from medical devices to drugs on patients.
The Bitter Pill
In regulations notified in last December, MCI imposed a blanket ban on doctors accepting gifts, travel facilities and hospitality from pharma companies for promoting their products. In early March, MCI quantified punishments for future transgressions—from censure to removal from the Indian or State Medical Registry for more than a year.
Doctors are frowning on the stringent restrictions, especially on research projects. There is some talk of relaxing norms here. Pharma companies are rueing lost marketing opportunities, especially in a market of branded generic drugs where there is little differentiation.
An Easy Cure...
... is unlikely. The recommendations have been sent to the Union Health Ministry. Once approved, these will be sent to the states to be adopted. But enforcement remains an issue. MCI is wid