Doctors and pharmaceutical, as well as medical devices companies, share a symbiotic relationship, and often the cost of this unhealthy alliance falls on the shoulders of helpless patients. Well, the Modi government is all to set for a crackdown on this nexus deeply entrenched in India.
The infamous Bribing Nexus
Pharmaceutical companies as well as medical devices companies and Doctors or say hospitals share a symbiotic relationship. Both the companies and the doctors are dependent on each other to survive in the market.
But there is a very ugly side to a ‘symbiotic relationship’. It’s no secret that these companies woo doctors to prescribe their products like drugs and devices through ‘bribing’.
The bribing is carried out in this circuit in a very innovative manner like providing credit cards, e-vouchers for online purchases etc. This list goes on from spa vouchers to foreign trips. Several studies have been performed that unveiled this nexus. They establish that different strategies are used to promote drugs to categories of doctors.
According to the Medical Council of India, there exist codes that govern the profession that prohibits them from accepting bribes but unfortunately less than 20% of doctors abide by the ethical codes prescribed by the MCI, and the union government led by PM Modi has planned a surgical strike on this nexus.
Government unveils Draft codes
The Modi government at the centre has planned a crackdown on the practice of bribing doctors. The Department of Pharmaceuticals under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has prepared a draft uniform code for marketing practices of medical devices.
The draft was released on March, 16 and the government has requested feedback from the representatives of the industry by April 15.
The voluntary code suggests that no gifts, offers for recreational activities such as theatres, live musicals, sporting events, spas, vacation trips should be offered or promised to medical practitioners qualified to use, prescribe or supply medical devices, by any medical device company or its agents.
The draft code bars the practice of gifting things of personal benefit to doctors and their families. Such perks include tickets to entertainment in events. Under this code, the companies manufacturing medical devices will be asked to not pay cash or monetary grants to any healthcare provider.
There is no blanket ban on gifting culture as the government has left some space for the companies to nurture good relations with the healthcare providers. The draft code suggests that the companies may provide educational grants and educational items to doctors that benefits patients or that act as brand recall items. The upper-cost limit to brand recall items has been set at ₹ 1000.
The central government by this draft has emphasized on voluntary self-regulation by the medical devices companies. The government though has warned that it may make the code statutory if not implemented well.
Medical devices form an important pillar in the healthcare system and this draft code by the Modi government will help achieve the key values enshrined in the National Health Policy of 2017.