An anecdotal remark in a recently released study about three neurologists from Mumbai on a pharma-sponsored foreign tour along with two “south Indian heroines” has led to a stir in the medical fraternity. The Maharashtra Medical Council has now sought details of the three doctors from the researchers.
The study carried out by the Pune-based Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (SATHI) says besides leisure trips, doctors are lured with anything from smartphones, microwave ovens, gold jewellery to petrol cards and online vouchers. Authored by Dr. Arun Gadre and Dr. Archana Diwate, the report titled “Promotional practices of the pharmaceutical industry and implementation status of related regulatory codes in India” is a qualitative study compiled with 50 in-depth interviews of medical representatives (MR), area sales managers, doctors and executive directors of pharmaceutical companies.
“Several senior MRs described, with a lot of anguish, that some companies even arrange for women to accompany doctors as per their demands. Such arrangements are done by a senior level management and the MRs are not directly involved, and is reserved only for the doctors who give enormous business [sic]”, the report says citing the above anecdote from a senior MR. “In another case, the doctor categorically said if he and wife were not sent to Europe then the concerned MR need not visit him any more to seek business,” the report says.
While the report emphasises that not all doctors indulge in such practices, the researchers called for effective regulation of the private healthcare sector and push for urgent enactment of the bill on Uniform Code Of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP) that holds pharma companies accountable for malpractices.
“ We, like the Indian Medical Association (IMA), believe that there are a few miscreants who give a bad name to the entire community. So, ideally, civil society organisations and the IMA should work together to bring effective regulations of pharmaceutical companies,” said Dr. Gadre, a co-author of the report.
The Maharashtra Medical Council has written to Dr. Gadre requesting the names of the three neurologists or the MR who could provide further information. “As a medical council, we are concerned about such practices that malign our community. If we get some leads, we can conduct a thorough investigation,” said Dr. Shivkumar Utture of the MMC.
But Dr. Gadre has informed the MMC about strict confidentiality and the qualitative nature of the research. “We understand the MMC’s concern. But qualitative research is done with an aim to understand the trend,” said Dr. Gadre adding that the anecdote showed that such practices are happening. “In epidemiology, even a single case of cholera is considered an epidemic. The MMC should take a similar approach,” said Dr. Gadre.-The Hindu