Doctors get reminder on ethics

Sunday 31 January 2010

Stop taking gifts from pharma companies: Medical Council

The Medical Council of India (mci) has amended the ethical guidelines for doctors to discourage them from accepting favours from pharma companies to promote their products. This is the first such amendment in seven years.

The Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct¤ Etiquette and Ethics) (Amendment) Regulations¤ 2009 prohibits medical practitioners from accepting gifts¤ travel facilities¤ hospitality and cash from the pharma industry either in their name or in the name of family members. It also prohibits doctors from endorsing drugs and healthcare products. Studies on the efficacy of such products have to be published in scientific journals or presented to scientific bodies¤ the rules said. The new code of conduct has put strictures on the way research is conducted. It has allowed grants from the pharma industry¤ but on condition that researchers get the approval of the institutional ethics committees and disclose their findings and funding details.

Mixed response
Amar Jessani of the Centre for Enquiry into Health and Allied Themes¤ a research centre¤ said unless mci implements the regulation strictly¤ the cozy relationship between pharma companies and doctors will continue. “Scientific research requires sponsorship and scientific progress should not be stymied in a bid to implement strict norms¤” said paediatric surgeon Ketan Parikh¤ adding there is a need for more ethics committees to approve research projects. Parikh is a member of the Association of Medical Consultants in Mumbai.

The amended guidelines follow the American Medical Guidelines that prohibit doctors from accepting gifts¤ however small. To make it effective¤ strict records are maintained of gifts received and prescriptions issued. Doctors doubt if such vigilance can be replicated in India. Jessani said the new rule retains the provisions of punishing and taking disciplinary action against those violating the conduct code. But mci’s record of taking disciplinary action against erring doctors is poor. It should publicly denounce those who indulge in unethical practices¤ Jessani added.

L K Jain of Small Pharmaceutical Industries Confederation said the mci has no control on the pharma industry and will not be able to stop them.

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