It is largely practiced and well-known in the healthcare industry that pharma companies pay doctors in cash or e-money to increase their sales by generating prescriptions. Dr. Arun Gadra and Dr. Archana Diwate conducted a study entitled ‘ Promotional Practices of the Pharmaceutical Industry and Implementation Status of Related Regulatory Codes in India ‘ which recorded unethical practices and regulatory failure in this ‘business’ while offering suggestions for improving the outgoing regulatory framework.
The study is based on 50 in-depth interviews conducted in six cities, involving predominantly professional officials who are the leading individuals in the field of drug promotion to doctors. The key findings of this study point to the changes in sales tactics that have changed from supplying doctors with scientific information to relying all costs on business generation. It highlights direct deals between pharma companies and doctors where the pharma companies pay installments of a doctor’s car purchase. There are many more use of tactics such as inducement, emotional appeals, persuasions, serving family members, sponsorships for national and international conferences, pampering doctors, has become the norm. Newer, more innovative methods have come into practice over the years, such as providing prepaid cards, e-vouchers for online shopping on Amazon and Flipkart. There were extreme cases, where a few doctors even ‘demand women for entertainment’.
Doctors are classified by pharmaceutical companies as core and secondary, the core ones are those who offer the company business. The key physicians who set the prescribing pattern are also sought after and cared for. To pharmaceutical companies, the history of the doctor’s education does not matter as long as it gives them a good business. There is also no reluctance in recommending allopathic drugs to practitioners of Ayurveda, homeopathy and rural medicine (RMPs).The study says the Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP) is not functional on the ground to control unethical promotional practices. The UCPMP is hardly even known to medical officials. Not all doctors are involved in such unethical practices. The study found that 10 percent to 20 percent doctors meet the compulsory regulatory ethical codes for medical practitioner.
The study calls for giving teeth to the existing regulation, rather than leaving it to voluntary compliance. “It has still not made the UCPMP compulsory, as stated in 2015. MCI does not have jurisdiction over the industry and it is the responsibility of the government to take strict measures to curb unethical practices of the industry,” the study added.