The national organization for the doctors in the country, Indian Medical Association (IMA), in a letter, has sought clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his statement that pharmaceutical companies are engaging in unethical marketing practices and allegedly bribing doctors with women, gadgets or foreign tours.
In its letter titled 'Deny or Prove or Apologise,' IMA taking "strong exception" has demanded further clarification from the office of the Prime Minister if a meeting with the top pharma companies "ever happened" and the reason of inviting them for a meet rather than actioning a criminal proceeding against them.
IMA, however, pointed its skepticism in the government's ability to prove the allegations and asked if the statement made by the prime minister is based on "unverified information" then apology should be made to the doctors of the country.
PM's meet with the pharma companies' officials
PM Modi, on January 2, in a meeting with the senior management of the top pharmaceutical companies including Zydus Cadila, Torrent Pharmaceuticals, and Wockhardt had allegedly warned them on bribing the doctors with women, gadgets or foreign tours, reported The Print.
A senior government official who also attended the meeting said that the issue of unethical use of marketing methods reached the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) inducing the meeting to be convened with the senior officials which included Pankaj Patel of Zydus Cadila, Sudhir Mehta of Torrent and Habil Khorakiwala from Wockhardt.
The official further informed that the PM told the drug-makers that their "non-compliance with marketing practices" could lead the government in creating a strict law, bringing a "statutory provision."
This was the second meeting where the government met and warned the pharmaceutical officials. The first meeting was on December 23, last year.
The report that led to the meet
This meeting was arranged after a non-governmental organization named Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) published a report exploring "ground-level realities" of marketing practices in the pharma industry which suggested that medical representatives of such companies use unethical means to engage with the doctors.
The study had been conducted by two doctors, Dr Arun Gadre and Dr Archana Diwate who documented their findings in a report titled 'Promotional practices of the pharmaceutical industry and implementation status of related regulatory codes in India.'
The report stated the transition in the "promotional strategies" with new innovative mechanisms like "providing debit cards/ credit cards, e-vouchers for online purchasing on Amazon and Flipkart" and "demand women for entertainment".
The report found out that such arrangements are done by senior-level management, and MRs are not directly involved in such understandings. It also suggested that these are reserved only for the doctors who give enormous business.
Govt diverting attention from real issues: IMA
The statement by the apex body for the doctors took the government to task blaming their actions to "divert the attention from unresolved issues" which includes the health of the people and medical education of the country.
Slamming the Modi government's Ayushman Bharat Yojana as "non-starter" and a campaign that operates more in government hospitals where treatment is provided for free, the statement claimed that 15 percent of the money paid to hospitals is siphoned off by the insurance companies.
It questioned the government's low allocation of the GDP to the health sector with no new investment in infrastructure and human resources. Also bringing to the fore, the increased violence against doctors and the government's inability to provide them security and meet their demands on time.
IPA denies PM Modi's bribe remarks
The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) on Wednesday said PM had convened a meeting with the healthcare industry but there was "no discussion at all on the alleged bribes being given by pharma companies to doctors."
"There was no discussion at all on the alleged bribes being given by pharma companies to doctors as being reported in the media. The meeting was a constructive one where the discussion was limited to initiatives to boost the industry. News reports to the contrary are baseless," said the IPA in a statement.
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