Ever since the Medical Council of India (MCI) banned doctors from accepting gifts and freebies from the pharma and healthcare industry, some companies have openly induced the medical profession to disobey the directive, according to a New Delhi-based industry watchdog.
The Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS) has collected data on violations of the MCI code by drug companies.
In the second week of April, an unknown body calling itself ‘Udaan Diabetes Care Foundation’ organized a ‘Regional Insulin Summit Meet – North’ at Fortune Grace Hotel, Mussoorie, where over 50 rooms were reserved. The Rs.5,500 per night room tariff of this ultra luxurious hotel was picked up by Bangalore-based Novo Nordisk which sells insulin, MIMS editor Chandra Gulhati, a keen observer of the pharma industry, says in an editorial.
Some time ago, the same company had distributed thousands of copies of a glossy, four colour publicity booklet under the title ‘Levemir: Indian Experience’, which carried the photographs and endorsements by 63 diabetologists in violation of the MCI rule (6.1) which clearly states, “A physician shall not give… any approval,… endorsement with respect to any drug, or any commercial product”, says Gulhati.
Investigation by MIMS has unearthed several violations of the MCI code by drug companies that have openly sponsored doctors to go on foreign jaunts despite the ban.
Piramal Healthcare in Mumbai took some 200 diabetologists to Turkey in late January followed by a batch of oncologists in mid-March to the same destination. Some of these travellers are now facing investigation by MCI.
Dr. Reddy’s Lab in Hyderabad paid for about 200 doctors to visit Hyderabad in January. Navi Mumbai-based Wanbury dispatched some 100 doctors to Dubai in mid-February and put them up at luxurious Dhow Palace Hotel. The package tour was handled by Cox and Kings at a cost of about Rs.40,000 per person.
Lupin of Mumbai held an all expense paid promotional event at Indore in late February and reserved rooms in three luxurious hotels (Sayaji, Amar Vilas and Landmark Fortune) for obliging doctors mainly from Madhya Pradesh. MCI is believed to be in possession of some names.
MCI has received information on Macleods having dispatched just over 90 doctors to Bangkok in the third week of February and an additional 100 doctors to Dubai in early March.
Gulhati said MCI has already approached the health ministry to empower the Drugs Controller General, India, to take action against companies that induce doctors to violate the law.
“Even more effective will be a new provision in the income tax laws to disallow all expenses incurred by the healthcare industry that are in violation of MCI regulations,” notified Gulhati.