Doctors cannot be bribed legitimately anymore
From this month, doctors in India will not be allowed to accept lavish gifts from pharma companies. This unethical practice has been the norm so far (Indian Journal of Medical Ethics). Pharmaceutical companies give lavish gifts to doctors, ranging from expensive crystal and leather to foreign holidays and even fancy cars – all in the hope that the doctor prescribes their medicines. According to a Times of India report, a Code of Conduct has been formulated by the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) which represents companies that control almost two-thirds of the pharma market. This Code of Conduct has been based on the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Association (IFPMA) Code. The Code will also attempt to control pharma companies from making exaggerated claims about their medicines.
Bribing was not considered bribing earlier
The practice of bribing doctors was never considered bribing, so accepted and widespread was it in the industry. But it looks like a lot was happening behind the scenes to stop this blatantly anti-consumer and unethical practice. The Indian Medical Association disapproved of it and had recently submitted a policy document on the subject. The only gifts that doctors can accept now are say medical textbooks. Can’t help but smile at the thought…
No one can really check
While it is heartening that the industry itself has taken an initiative to reform the pharma sector, the fact is that no one can check what individual docs are up to. But at least the doctors will now have a Code to refer to….they will know that accepting a bribe is disallowed. If they still do it, they will have to do it on the sly – like thieves. The honest ones will find this quite repugnant and will immediately comply. Also, with this Code in place, complaints can be filed against erring companies ( OPPI will rule in the issue).
Better late than never
India has been pretty late in putting these safeguards in place to protect consumers who are often illiterate (and thus easier to be put upon by doctors), but now a movement has begun which will have far-reaching consequences. What is also needed is a public awareness campaign which will make the common man aware of this Code of Conduct. This will make him more alert and able to file complaints with the OPPI.
Related Reading: The art of bribing