Freebies And UCPMP

A Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) is in operation since 1 January 2015 for addressing unethical practices by Pharma Companies. The UCPMP contains provisions whereby companies or their associations or representatives or any person acting on their behalf shall not extend any gift, cash, hospitality, travel facility inside or outside the country to Health-Care Professionals and their family members for vacation or for attending conferences, seminars, workshops, CME programmes etc. as a delegate. According to the government, the code is voluntarily adopted for compliance by the Industry.

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Department of Revenue, Centre informed the Parliament that the Income Tax Department (ITD) conducts suitable actions as per law in relevant cases, where any credible information is received about violation of provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961. Such violations may also include claiming of inadmissible expenses including expenses covered under the explanation 1 & 3 of section 37(1) of the Act. Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 formed under Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (102 of 1956), also provide for conduct for doctors and professional association of doctors in their relationship with pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry. All this notwithstanding, the allegations of freebies received by the health care professionals from the companies, directly or through representatives, continue. This unethical practice also at times, if not most occasions, leads to irrational prescriptions by the health care professionals and in turn has an ill effect on health as well as health-care expenditure.

It is in this context that prescription auditing needs to be done more actively. It is an important tool to improve the quality of prescriptions, which in turn improves the quality of health care provided.

It is important that the prescription is in line with the best practices mentioned in the World Health Organization guidelines as well as the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare which was founded in 2006.  The panels, if still in practice, need to check if the medical practitioners are indulging in practices that go against medical ethics such as prescribing medicine not even required by the patient for mere promotional purposes. One cannot ignore the complexity of the medical field and beyond doubt a well-meaning ethical doctor may prescribe an expensive brand of the drug only for a better outcome. Amid this mix, there is a need for a robust mechanism.

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