Govt to codify ethics for pharma companies next week

Written by Soma Das | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 19 2012, 07:51am hrs
To firm up a mandatory ethical code for pharma companies to clean up their dealings with doctors, the department of pharma would meet the domestic drug industry early next week.

The set of guidelines that would be thrashed out after a round of consultation may then be sent to the Medical Council of India (MCI) for a green signal to ensure that they are in sync with the existing set of laws that provides for cancellation of registration in case a doctor is found compromising on ethics.

The MCI has already framed law for doctors prohibiting them from accepting any freebies from pharma companies but as of now, it remains a half law considering there are no provisions to hold concerned pharma companies responsible if they are found guilty of offering goodies or making objectionable inducements to doctors. The decision to meet next week to finalise the ethical code for drugmakers was taken in a meeting on Wednesday chaired by the department of pharma secretary, DS Kalha. Along with other pharma department officials, it was also attended by representatives of health ministry, MCI and industry. Among the industry associationsmembers of Organization of Pharma Producers of India (OPPI), Indian Pharma Alliance (IPA), Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association (IDMA) and Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry (CIPI) were present at the meeting.

The department of pharmaceuticals wanted the drug industry to abide by the code that has already been formulated by the MCI for the doctors. We put forward our views informing the department that parts of the law are too vague and impractical to be implemented. Some parts are very rigid and unrealistic to follow and making it mandatory would unnecessarily spawn covert deals, an industry representative present in the meeting said. The pharma department after multiple rounds of consultations with the industry had earlier put in place a code of conduct to be followed by the drug firms on a voluntary basis. However, this set of self regulation was perceived by the medical fraternity as going soft on pharma companies. Lately the government has been under severe pressure from the parliamentary panel, civil society and MPs such as Jyoti Mirdha to make the code of ethics mandatory for pharma companies. Internationally too, the ethical practices of drug companies are under spotlight as earlier this month pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) shelled out the heftiest fine ever at $3 billion to settle with the US government on alleged criminal and civil charges of overpromotion and misbranding of drugs.