In what’s said to be a move to stop pharma companies influencing doctors through expensive gifts, the government is coming out with a Rs. 1,000 ceiling on the value of such giveaways. It’s said that the government also contemplates a blanket ban on expensive “gifts” like luxury vacations and seminars.

It’s considered that Rs.1000 would be sufficient for the drug manufacturers to provide objects that would help with brand recall. The order is expected to come soon, and will cover chemists, doctors and hospitals.

Once the department of pharmaceuticals(DoP) issues the executive order, the code would bind all stakeholders and violating norms will attract punishment-which could vary from a warning to cancelling the license.

Another suggested inclusion in the proposal is an ethical committee to investigate violation complaints. Presently, the pharmaceutical industry is expected to “self regulate” their marketing.

The pharma market in India is one of the largest and fastest growing in the world. But because the market is heavily fragmented, the government and regulators, it’s claimed are having a hard time curbing unethical practices. It’s even claimed that such unethical practices are growing heavily in the absence of strong regulation.

The first draft of the Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices(UCPMP) was issued in November 2014. It was meant for a period of six months, starting Jan 1, 2015. It was then suggested that the code would be reviewed and that if the industry wouldn’t self-regulate, the code would be made mandatory. The proposal had it that a medical practitioner must bear his expense when participating as a “delegate” in a conference or seminar organized by a pharma company.

Also, pharma companies are not allowed to extend hospitality to any doctor or healthcare professional or their family.

But, what are the ground realities?

While the government’s decision seems to be taken with good intention, how much is it based on ground realities is unclear.

The question of how much a doctor is influenced by “freebies” from pharma companies is still widely debated. Also, seminars and conferences do have a positive impact of helping many delegates update themselves. . Hope the govt. has ground realities sorted out behind this decision.

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