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New voluntary code against freebies to doctors may not work

Many, that Business Today spoke to, felt that pharmaceutical companies in India will find a way to get around the cod.

twitter-logoE Kumar Sharma | January 2, 2015 | Updated 16:37 IST
New voluntary code against freebies to doctors may not work
Many, that Business Today spoke to, felt that pharmaceutical companies in India will find a way to get around the code. (Photo: Reuters)

Starting January 1, the Department of Pharmaceuticals is implementing a "Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices" that aims to stop the practice of giving freebies to doctors to promote sale of medicines. But this is a voluntary code and doctors are divided on how effective it can be.

Many, that Business Today spoke to, felt that pharmaceutical companies in India will find a way to get around the code. "This is a move in the right direction and it would be ideal if it can be checked through a voluntary code but we do not live in an ideal world and therefore I expect this to be made a statutory code," says Dr N Krishna Reddy, a cardiologist and Vice Chairman of Care Hospitals in Hyderabad.

Others, however, feel this is a code that will work best only when imposed voluntarily. "It is a move in the right direction but we do not have adequate systems in place to monitor and enforce this effectively. Therefore, a voluntary code may only be the option at the moment," says oncologist Radheshyam Naik at HealthCare Global, a Bangalore-based hospital chain that specialises in cancer care.

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Naik says it is also perhaps time to look beyond doctors and pharmaceutical companies and look at politicians who set up medical colleges and the admission processes in these colleges.

The code is voluntarily for the first six months, after which it will be reviewed. It talks of checks on companies from giving cash or monetary grants and gifts to doctors. Medical practitioners say companies can still find a way around it and could use different modes to entice doctors.

For instance, companies can appoint doctors as consultants for giving inputs regarding their drugs, by making doctors write articles about their drugs in the name of imparting knowledge or by holding seminars and lectures on generic medicines that go into the concerned branded drugs. Whether all of this will be checked will be known after the review in six months.

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