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  4. Centre notifies new 'marketing code' for pharma companies to prevent unethical practices | Details here

Centre notifies new 'marketing code' for pharma companies to prevent unethical practices | Details here

As per the code, the promotion of a drug must be consistent with the terms of its marketing approval and a drug must not be promoted prior to receipt of its marketing approval from the competent authority, authorizing its sale or distribution.

Edited By: Anurag Roushan @Candid_Tilaiyan New Delhi Updated on: March 13, 2024 10:03 IST
Centre notifies new 'marketing code' for pharma companies to prevent unethical practices
Image Source : INDIA TV The image has been used for representative purposes only.

The Department of Pharmaceuticals issued a notification introducing a new Uniform Code aimed at regulating the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. Under the Uniform Code for Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP) 2024, pharma companies are prohibited from providing gifts and travel accommodations to healthcare professionals or their family members.

Additionally, the code mandates the cessation of supplying free samples to individuals who are not authorised to prescribe such products. This initiative underscores efforts to promote ethical practices within the pharmaceutical industry and enhance transparency in interactions between companies and healthcare professionals. 

What does new marketing code says?

According to the newly introduced code, any reported violations will be addressed by the 'Ethics Committee for Pharma Marketing Practices' within each association. This committee, consisting of three to five members, will be chaired by the chief executive officer (CEO) of the board. Appointments to the committee will require approval from the Association's Board, and these appointments must be publicly disclosed on the association's website, as specified by the Department of Pharmaceuticals. 

"No gift should be offered or provided for the personal benefit of any healthcare professional or family member (both immediate and extended) by any pharmaceutical company or its agent i.e. distributors, wholesalers, retailers, etc," as per the UCPMP guidelines. Similarly, no pecuniary advantage or benefit in kind may be offered, supplied, or promised to any person qualified to prescribe or supply drugs, by any pharmaceutical company or its agent i.e.distributors, wholesalers, retailers, etc, it added.

Besides, the companies or their representatives, or any person acting on their behalf, should not extend travel facilities inside or outside the country, including rail, air, ship, cruise tickets, paid vacations, etc. to healthcare professionals or their family members for attending conferences, seminars, workshops etc., it stated. Companies or their representatives should not pay cash or monetary grant to any healthcare professional or their family members (both immediate and extended) under any pretext, as per the UCPMP code.

The promotion of a drug must be consistent with the terms of its marketing approval and a drug must not be promoted prior to receipt of its marketing approval from the competent authority, authorizing its sale or distribution, as per the code.

"Information about drugs must be balanced, up-to-date, verifiable, must not mislead either directly or by implication; accurately reflect current knowledge or responsible opinion; and must be capable of substantiation, which must be provided without delay, at request of the members of the medical and pharmacy professions, including members of other professions employed in the pharmaceutical industry," it stated.

Penal provision for violating code

As per the code's stipulations, each pharmaceutical company is required to maintain comprehensive records including product names, doctors' names, quantities of samples distributed, and dates of sample supply to healthcare practitioners. Furthermore, the code specifies that the total monetary value of samples distributed by a company should not exceed 2 per cent of its domestic sales per year.

In the event of a breach of the code, the offending entity is obligated to issue a corrective statement through the same media channels used for promotional material dissemination, whether textual or audio-visual. Prior approval from the committee is required for the content, mode, and timing of the corrective statement's dissemination.

Moreover, the entity found in violation of the code must take action to recover any money or items provided unlawfully to the concerned personnel, with detailed reports of such actions to be submitted in writing to the committee. These measures are aimed at ensuring compliance and accountability within the pharmaceutical industry's marketing practices. 

How do unethical practices in pharma industry impact people? 

Access to medicines is crucial for safeguarding individuals against illnesses. However, for the economically disadvantaged sections of society, a significant portion of their income is allocated towards medical expenses. Therefore, it becomes imperative to address unethical practices employed by pharmaceutical companies, particularly those aimed at inflating the prices of commonly prescribed medications.

The health of patients is directly impacted by the medications prescribed to them. In some cases, doctors may prescribe high-potency doses or non-scheduled drugs that are not regulated under the Drug Price Control Order (DPCO). The adverse effects of such medications on patients' health may only become apparent after a prolonged period of time. Additionally, doctors sometimes prescribe medications like multivitamins and Becosules even when they are unnecessary. This overprescription not only increases medicine consumption but also burdens patients with unnecessary expenses. Addressing these practices was essential to ensure that patients receive appropriate and affordable medical care.

(With inputs from agencies)

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