Pharmascolds in the U.S. are celebrating the passage of the Physician Payment Sunshine Law, which (viewed cynically) allows all docs to take as much money as they want from Pharma, only they have to disclose it. It is breathtaking to see how far the U.S. scene lags behind India if this news account is indicative (open source; hat tip to Healthy Skepticism listserv for making me aware of it):
MCI asks Health Ministry to make pharma cos punishable for gifting docs
Thursday, March 25, 2010 08:00 IST Ramesh Shankar, Mumbai
The Medical Council of India (MCI) has asked the Union Health Ministry to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to bring the pharmaceutical companies under the ambit of the law in making them punishable for rolling out freebies to the doctors for promoting their medicines. At present, only the doctors who accept gifts from companies will invite action by the MCI, and the pharma companies who roll out the gifts are out of the purview of the law.
MCI chairman Dr Ketan Desai said that the MCI has written a letter to the union health ministry in this regard. He said the MCI has suggested the cancellation of licenses of such pharma companies who are found to be involved in unethical trade practices.
Coming close on the heels of its recent notification under which the doctors who accept any kind of gifts from pharma companies will invite cancellation of their registration to practice, the MCI's new initiative will bring the pharma companies under the law in which they will be punished if found guilty of giving any kind of gift to the doctors as part of their promotional activity. The pharma companies very often extend several kinds of gifts to the doctors including domestic and foreign holiday packages to promote their products. The MCI's initiative to make the pharma companies also legally bound to follow the ethical trade practices comes in the wake of media reports that several pharma companies are still openly floundering norms to offer gifts to the doctors to promote their medicines. Recently there were reports in the media that prominent pharma companies like Dr Reddy's and Piramal had resorted to unethical trade practices. While, Piramal had taken a group of doctors to Turkey, Dr Reddy's had taken the doctors to Hyderabad for some seminars. There are reports that several other companies are also resorting to the same practice, giving scant to regard to the MCI's notification that restraints doctors from accepting gifts.
Like accepting a gift, giving a gift is also equally wrong. At present, we cannot take any action against the pharma companies for giving gifts to the doctors. So, we sought an amendment in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to bring the pharmaceutical companies under the ambit of the law in making them punishable for rolling out freebies to the doctors for promoting their medicines, Dr Desai said.
He said that the MCI has asked the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) to ask the pharma companies to restrain from such unethical trade practices.
Dr Desai also said that even though the MCI had written letters to the doctors and the pharma companies involved in the recent controversy, they did not respond to the MCI so far.
So-- the folks who function for India as equivalent to state medical licensing boards in the US, if I get the picture, have already told docs they may lose their licenses if they take any stuff at all from drug companies--and now want the law to prohibit the companies from offering the stuff in the first place.
I have suggested in my initial comment that India is "ahead" of the US in this area, and I believe that to be so in recognizing the depth of the problem. But I did not mean that as to suggest that I personally favor a criminalizing solution to the problem. I have from the get-go tried to argue that this is a matter of medical profesisonalism, and the integrity of medical practitioners, rather than legal penalties, would ideally govern. That of course requires that we medical folk hurry up and develop some integrity!