No-bribing rules a bitter pill for Indian drugmakers

No-bribing rules a bitter pill for Indian drugmakers
Gifts and trips offered to doctors and pharmacists has been restricted to $15.

mumbai - Country is drawing up its first set of marketing rules for drugmakers

By Zeba Siddiqui

Published: Wed 2 Aug 2017, 7:46 PM

Last updated: Wed 2 Aug 2017, 9:48 PM

India, one of the world's largest markets for pharmaceuticals, is drawing up its first set of marketing rules for drugmakers, restricting gifts and trips offered to doctors and pharmacists to ?1,000 ($15), according to a draft proposal seen by Reuters.

While such rules are common elsewhere in the world and adhered to by large pharmaceutical companies, they are not set in stone in India, where campaigners have long demanded a crackdown on unethical selling practices. These have included gifts ranging from electrical appliances to foreign junkets to encourage doctors and pharmacists to prescribe and stock certain medications.

Currently, India has only a voluntary marketing code that critics say is ineffective.

"In India, corruption and bribery of doctors is widespread," said Samiran Nundy, one of India's leading gastrointestinal surgeons. "I've seen a range of ways in which this works, from presents to doctors to paying for them to attend conferences in places like Thailand."

"It's great that marketing rules are coming into place, but there are a huge number of regulations in India that are not enforced," he added. "I hope that these will be enforced."

Apart from limiting marketing spending, the draft proposal drawn up the Department of Pharmaceuticals and being reviewed by India's law ministry would also forbid drugmakers from making misleading claims around the curative abilities and efficacy of drugs.

The rules also impose strict limitations on the number of trial samples offered to doctors.

An official at the Department of Pharmaceuticals declined to comment on the specifics of the draft, but told Reuters that the order was being reviewed.

The official, who asked not to be named, said no timeline has yet been set on the implementation of the new rules.

According to the draft seen by Reuters, a failure to abide by the rules will result in a marketing ban on a drugmaker for more than a year depending on the degree of the violation, and the confiscation of "all packets of the highest selling brand of drugs" made by that company.

The seized drugs will be handed over for use at government hospitals across the country.

Companies can turn a marketing suspension order into a cash fine, according to the proposal. They will have to pay penalties of between  ?500,000 ($7,800) and  ?100,000,000 ($1.56 million) to reverse a marketing suspension order, depending on the severity.

Mandatory code
In a letter last year, Tapan Sen, a member of India's upper house of Parliament, urged the government to act on drafting a mandatory code on the marketing of pharmaceuticals, citing irregular practices by several companies.

Indian media reported that the letter said the country's largest drugmaker, Sun Pharma, Abbott India and privately-held Macleods Pharmaceuticals were among drugmakers found to have sent doctors on "pleasure trips." - Reuters

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