New Delhi, January 21-The Association of Doctors for Ethical Healthcare (ADEH) has issued a statement asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to back his concern, that pharmaceutical companies bribe doctors with women and gadgets, by bringing in a mandatory Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP).
There have been numerous instances of pharma bribing but despite having a voluntary code in place since January 2015, no action has yet been taken yet.
According to a report in The Economic Times, the ADEH statement read “It is unfortunate that even after five years the code remains voluntary,” adding that voluntary codes don’t work as global experiences have proven.
“Pharma companies spend huge amount on travel, accommodation and other expenditures on the doctors for lavish arrangements of the conferences”, read the ADEH statement.
“This would be unacceptable under the voluntary UCPMP. As per clause 7.2 of the UCPMP, “companies or their associations/representatives shall not extend any hospitality like hotel accommodation to healthcare practitioners and their family members under any pretext”. This means that even extending benefits to doctors through associations is unethical and yet this is being flouted with impunity, the report in the daily quoted ADEH as saying.
While stating that in February 2014 the Medical Council of India amended the ethics code of 2002 to exempt “professional associations of doctors” from its purview, the ADEH called it unfortunate and expressed its dismay.
Seeking urgent steps to reverse this amendment, the ADEH statment asked the government to take necessary steps like bringing corporate hospitals under the purview of medical ethics as they “take advantage and openly flout” medical ethics as they are currently not covered under it.
By raising the issue of tax treatment of expenses by pharma on freebies, ADEH demanded that government make expenses on freebies taxable. The Central Bureau of Direct Taxes had decided in 2012 that no tax exemption will be given for such expenses since they were forbidden under MCI’s ethics code. However, in July 2018, an income tax tribunal reversed this. This ruling has not been challenged by the government.
The statement by ADEH asserted, that the PM’s concern about doctors being bribed would “remain only rhetoric” if the steps proposed by it are not implemented.