Doctors who take gifts from pharma firms to be punished: MCI guidelines

For the first time, these guidelines will define punishment for errant doctors based on the value of favours or freebies received from pharma companies.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published:February 6, 2016 4:11 am
MCI, medical council of india, Indian Medical Council, Indian Medical Council Regulations, freebies, doctor freebies, pharma freebies, Indian Medical Council Regulations, india news, It was to be reviewed a few months later to decide whether it should instead be made mandatory. The review is still pending.

DOCTORS accepting freebies such as gifts and foreign jaunts from pharmaceutical companies will now be punished, based on the value of gifts received. The punishment will range from a censure for gifts of up to Rs 5,000 to deletion of the errant doctor’s name from the state or national medical register for a period of one year or more for freebies valued more than Rs 1 lakh.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) is set to notify the new ethical guidelines under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) (Amendment) Regulations, 2015. For the first time, these guidelines will define punishment for errant doctors based on the value of favours or freebies received from pharma companies.

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While the Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2009 bar doctors from receiving freebies, the punishment, if caught, is now subject to the discretion of either the central or the state councils’ ethics committee. A voluntary code of conduct for pharmaceutical companies came into effect from January 2015. It was to be reviewed a few months later to decide whether it should instead be made mandatory. The review is still pending.

As per the new ethics guidelines any doctor accepting gifts, travel facilities, hospitality, cash or monetary grants worth Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 from a pharma company would see his/her name removed from the national or state medical register for three months. Nobody can practice medicine without registration with either the state medical council or the central council. If the value of the freebies is between Rs 10,000 and Rs 50,000 the penalty would go up to six months, and for those priced Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh, the errant doctor’s name would remain struck off the register for a year.

For free gifts amounting to more than Rs 1 lakh the period would be more than a year, subject to the discretion of the ethics committee. Repeat offenders under all slabs would be punished on a case to case basis, depending on the gravity of the offence.

An alleged nexus between some pharmaceutical companies and unscrupulous doctors is widely recognised as one of the key reasons behind rising drug prices, although companies maintain that the margins are to account for research and development work. In reality, cost of the freebies to doctors are usually worked into the marketing cost of drugs. As a result, drugs priced higher containing the same molecules often tend to be the market leaders.

But one of the worst kept secrets of the industry is that the code is flagrantly violated. Some time back, the MCI ethics committee had summoned 326 doctors from Maharashtra for accepting gifts, including jewellery and flats, apart from the more usual gift of foreign jaunts.
The new guidelines lay down that medical practitioners may carry out research work funded by pharma companies, provided they ensure that the research proposals have all the necessary clearances, it fulfills the legal requirements, the funding is publicly disclosed, and proper care and facilities are provided to volunteers. Any contravention for the first time will merit a censure but repeat for offenders names would be struck off the medical registers for a period depending on the gravity of the violation.

According to norms, a doctor cannot also endorse any medical product unless it is to present the results of an efficacy or other study done in an appropriate scientific body or journal. Not doing so for the first time would result in a censure; a second offence would mean deletion of his/her name from the medical register.

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  1. A
    Feb 6, 2016 at 3:46 am
    Good initiative. Why can't have control on medicine price. the richest persons will emerge from pharma as people are more vulnerable to health issues nowadays.
  2. T
    Feb 6, 2016 at 6:20 am
    whom MCI is trying to fool. Conference sponsored in exotic locations by Pharma companies are what
  3. R
    Richard Almeida
    Feb 7, 2016 at 3:43 am
    Will wait to see the name of the first Doctor to be taken off the list because of these Guidelines!
  4. P
    Feb 6, 2016 at 1:47 am
    Indian MADical Council took a huge bribe for 3 billion from PENTAVALENT Vaccine manufacturers that killed 1000s of babies. The entire macre was covered up by planting news in the media that the deaths were caused by expired vaccines. IMC is dominated by brahmins and they are the reason for al the macres that is happening at the behest of the illuminatis.
  5. K
    Feb 5, 2016 at 11:45 pm
    So long as the pharma companies give huge donations to the political parties, such companies will never be punished! Doctors are small fry. Many investigations have shown that a substantial percentage of prescribed drugs are of no use to the patients. It is a sheer waste of money by the people who can least afford.
  6. K
    Feb 5, 2016 at 11:28 pm
    There are no overt gifts, most of the gifts are in the form of having a big meeting of doctors and scientists in a resort where women, wine and dance are all free. It happens in the West and it is the same model that is happening in the East, so it is not what you ban, it is how you educate the vulnerable that they are being coaxed to support a medicine or company.
  7. C
    Chanakya Pandit
    Feb 12, 2016 at 7:48 am
    If freebies are crime, it should be the same in all fields. starting from all shops in malls - clothing, shoes, cosmetics, the groceries - adulteration is motivated everywhere. No doubt few doctors play with life of people. But groceries, ministers all do the same. this rule will have an impact on doctors who take - bits from companies. Many stalwarts build their house, clinic/hospital; sponsor their family foreign tours, ACs, refrigerators, elevators in their 3 storey bungalows, many other stuffs from pharma companies. their every year one abroad family vacation is sponsored. Land deals, furniture, and many more. This is more Rampant not in big cities but at much bigger and dirtier scale in small towns. Can MCI find and put a check on it? can MCI control these rural and small town BIG doctors? All this bullying is for petty doctors who work in medical colleges and receive diwali and new year gifts. the town freelancers with fake or not correct degrees are still on mega tours, purchase cars and enjoy. If rule is to be made first let these small town cheaters be controlled. medical college doctors also go on travels faking research reason and enjoy pharma finances. let this be checked. let the MCI get deeper into what research actually these pharmas in collaboration with doctors of colleges do. patient is admitted for headache and a 25Rs multi vitamin tablet per day is prescribed. WHY? Rs 2.5 also fetches it. many medicines cost 50 or 60Rs. Are they really to be prescribed for not so financially better people? Cardiologists, neuros, nephros, surgeons these are the ones who make more than maximum. Is stent / plasty/ graphy needed for each patient. Why CT/ MRI/ PET scans, all 3 when hardly 1 is required. most cases none is required. Why sonography/ scopy/ appendicectomy is done every next patient? Is MCI really trying to stop all this? Or the MCI which again consists of similar doctors does not want others to enjoy what they have already done with??!! MCI does it regularly - punishing the innocent Abrupt staff intake reduction. 150 students and only 4 teachers to teach 1 subject. A learned doctor/ even a school going teacher will realize how impractical and foolish it is. 1 subject - One year, 150 students, 40 practicals of 3 hours duration each, more than 100 hours of lectures- what is MCI or the doctors behind the screen are planning? just to help private owners increase their kitty weight, make a laugh of Indian health system? Freebies should be curtailed or stopped for all doctors by all means. today at bangalore ISECON nesrly 90 % are staying in 5 and 7 star hotels. How can the doctors finance all this for themselves and their families? where is MCI now? Do they really verify the PAN cards and doctors tours? the rural thugs will enjoy and the hardworking not so lucky EKLAVYAS will suffer for -bits.
  8. D
    Dhaval shinkar
    Apr 8, 2016 at 11:09 am
    In surat , company that is staunch pharma approching money to the drs for writing their pls take some action...and cancel the registration of these company...
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