Source : The Times of India, Last updated : 29 Nov 2019,12:49 am

Pharma companies offer even women to bribe doctors: Study

Pharma companies offer even women to bribe doctors: Study
NEW DELHI: Medical representatives have revealed widespread use of bribes, including foreign trips, microwave ovens, expensive smartphones, jewellery and even women, by pharmaceutical companies even as the government drags its feet on a 2016 proposal to bring in a Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) "with teeth" in the form of penal provisions.

In a report on pharmaceutical marketing practices compiled by a public health group Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (Sathi), medical representatives (MRs) talked of the tremendous pressure exerted by companies on them through high sales targets.

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They also revealed how training for MRs is focused less on technical knowledge and more on salesmanship and "management of customer (read doctors) relations". The report is based on in depth interviews with 50 MRs, areas sales managers, allopathic and Ayush doctors and pharma executives from six cities conducted last year.

Though the code of ethics of the Medical Council of India bars doctors from accepting any gifts, cash, travel facilities or hospitality from pharma companies, there are no laws to deal with such corrupt marketing practices.

According to the MRs, hardly 10-20% doctors follow the MCI code of ethics, while the rest accept or even demand 'incentives' to prescribe products of a company. The most common inducement is the sponsoring of doctors for conferences. In many highvalue deals, such as instalments on the purchase of a car, the company even threatens the doctor if the targeted business (a certain number of prescriptions for a drug) is not achieved, revealed MRs. The report revealed how cash bribes have changed to petrocards, credit cards or e-vouchers for online purchases.

MRs visit and promote allopathic drugs to ayurvedic and homeopathic doctors and even rural medical practitioners as long as they help boost sales. According to the report, pharma executives closely monitored business brought in by doctors on whom they spent money.

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The report pointed out that patient safety is compromised by irrational prescriptions and rampant use of antibiotics due to companies pushing for more sales through such unethical means.
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