At a time the government is looking to bring together different schools of medicine — allopathy, homeopathy and ayurveda — and taking steps to empower homeopathic doctors to prescribe allopathic drugs, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) is distancing itself to keep a distinct image by registering a trademark for all allopathy practitioners.
On Wednesday, the IMA, which has over 40,000 members in Maharashtra, got its trademark registered under the Trade Marks Act, 1999, for not just its members but all allopathic doctors to use on their letterheads to differentiate themselves from doctors practising other forms of medicine or those operating without registration. “It has been done for empowering patients who will be able to choose which practitioner they want to be treated by. The sign will only be used by allopathic doctors. Since ‘Dr’ is not patented, it can be used by anyone,” said IMA member Dr Shivkumar Utture.
The IMA is now raising awareness about the trademark, a red cross with Dr written at the centre, amongst patients and the medical community. According to IMA Maharashtra president Dr Jayesh Lele, anyone, apart from an allopathic doctor, who is found using the trademark on a prescription or letterhead, can be prosecuted under the Trade Marks Act.
“Until now, we would complain to police if we found a non-allopathic doctor prescribing allopathy medicines. But there is usually little or no action taken against them. At least now, we can sue such doctors if they use our trademark to mislead patients,” Lele said. According to Dr K K Agrawal, IMA national president, the logo will be a solution to problems like quackery or cross-pathy and help patients who understand whether a doctor is allopathic.
The move, however, may not go down well with all allopathic doctors who do not wish to use the trademark or are not part of the IMA — a private association that has at least 50 per cent of all registered allopathy doctors as its members. Maharashtra has over 75,000 registered allopathic doctors of whom, over 40,000 are IMA members. Since using the trademark is not mandatory and only a recommendation, all doctors may not use it creating confusion among patients. “We’re not stopping non-members of IMA from using it. We will come to know whether this has an impact on reducing cross-pathy in a few months,” Lele said.