A Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament has alleged that four drug companies have bribed doctors across India to push their products, violating the Medical Council of India's code of conduct.
USV, Abbott Laboratories, Macleods Pharmaceuticals and Sun Pharmaceuticals allegedly sponsored "pleasure trips" for doctors or, in some cases, doled out cash in violation of the code of conduct, Tapan Sen, a Communist Party of India (M) MP, wrote in a letter to minister of chemicals & fertilizers Anant Kumar.
The department of pharmaceuticals said in a report in July that there was a need to take up the issue in the interest of consumers and patients as such promotional expenses extended to doctors had a direct implication on the pricing of drugs and affordability.
In addition, the Comptroller & Auditor General, in a report in 2015, criticised the Central Board of Direct Taxes for allowing promotional expenses by pharma companies as deductible expenses while calculating tax. "I am waiting for the minister's response on this issue. Nothing has come so far. We also have the names of the doctors who have taken bribes, which we will release eventually," Sen told ET. Three of the companies denied any wrongdoing and one could not be reached for comment.
Sen lists allegations such as Sun Pharma paying for tickets for a pleasure trip to Srinagar for nine doctors and its Stancare division picking up the hotel bill for a doctor; money paid by USV to 13 doctors for a trip to Vancouver and an amount of `16,38,200 directly paid to 149 doctors in Madhya Pradesh; Abbott IndiaB paying money to 300 doctors and Macleods Pharma paying money to about 40 doctors in Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh.
The names are based on an investigation by People's Health Movement, an NGO that presented its report to the ministry last year. All these acts are a gross violation of the code of conduct formulated by the Medical Council of India, Sen wrote. "So far, MCI had not taken any action when complaints were filed to them. But this code is only applicable to doctors," he said in the letter.
US drug maker Abbott said its interaction with doctors is guided by the company's code of conduct and policies, laws and industry codes. "Our policies don't allow any activity with doctors as an incentive to recommend or prescribe Abbott products. We also have strict policies against providing entertainment, gifts, leisure activities or incurring expense for a doctor's family," an Abbott spokesperson said in response to an email query from ET. Sun Pharma said it is not aware of any letter written by any MP.
"Sun Pharma takes compliance very seriously and ensures that all our business practises remain compliant with all requirements," it said.