Health, Pharmaceuticals & Chemicals ministries should not wait for PM to push ‘UCPMP’ too

By Daya SagarSome media without naming but ofcourse making reference as from ‘government sources’ ( making reference of a ‘senior government official who attended the meeting’) reported on this 13th Jan that PM Modi has met senior officials from top drug-makers on 2 January in Delhi after the issue of unethical use of marketing tactics has been escalated to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) which in turn made calls to some top drug-makers and fixed a meeting with the PM where in the PM told drug-makers that their non-compliance with marketing good practices is pushing the government to create a strict law (by bringing in a statutory provision)

Prescription Audit be made regular feature by Lt Governor Administration immediately by appointing regular independent Audit Cells at District Level

giving indication that the ministry (of chemicals and fertilisers) has been asked to start working on it. The report further said that the said move was triggered by a report that had been published by a NGO (Support for Advocacy and Training to Health -SATHI ) that among other things suggested that medical representatives (MRs) – the people who pitch products directly to doctors – bribe them with foreign trips, expensive smart phones and … pushing individual brands. Immediately after that it was on 15 January reported in media that the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance had released the details of the meeting PM had convened with the industry on 1 January 2020 where in the press statement it was denied that PM Modi had warned pharma companies “not to bribe doctors” and to “use ethical marketing practices”. No doubt there did exist something like a “Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices -UCPMP” as was released by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) Ministry of the Chemicals and Fertilisers some wherein 2011-12, though it was voluntary, seeks to stop pharma firms from gifting large quantity sample products (not more than prescribed doses for three patients ) to healthcare professionals; prohibiting gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind to persons qualified to prescribe or supply drugs, by a pharmaceutical company or any of its agents i.e. distributors, wholesalers, retailers etc. and the like. Some have even accused that the good intentions of the government have been hijacked by the drug suppliers and “those” in government entrusted with the job of overseeing the adoption of codes like UCPMP on ground. It had also been reported in some media that Secretary Department of Pharmaceuticals had held such meeting/ conveyed concern to the Industry on 23 December 2018. Any how let us not take into the minors of the controversy and simply accept that need has emerged for the NDA-III Government for stepping in to enforce some thing like “Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices -UCPMP”. The accusations surely have merit since hardly any doctor even in the government ( what to talk of doctors in the private sector ) is found in general prescribing even the ‘patent right free’ essential allopathic drugs ( included in the National list of Essential Medicines 2011 updated with amendments to date) by chemical name or generic name. Even where governments have issued orders for writingprescription by chemical name (as far as possible) and even on paper have appointed Prescription Audit Cells / Units (like J&K Government did when Bali Bhagat was Health Minister in 2016 ) the “brands” are still ruling the “roost”. Along with the common man (who does not have “paid” health care & services from the “employer” like legislators / senior bureaucrats in the government have ) have been the real sufferer along with the Pradhan Mantri Jan AushadiPariyojna- PMBJAP that was commissioned in 2008 during UPA-II times and is still in 2020 have reached only a microscopic number of patients buying drugs based on prescriptions that the doctors write for them. The people who have to report the progress of PMBJAP, a Prime Minister flagship programme, too are still writing success stories for Prime Minister on PMBJAP when even after nearly 12 years in a country like India where we have more than 6,50,000 villages there may hardly around 3,000 shops actually in operation (in Jammu city J&K itself there may majority of shops either not operating even two shifts or if operating it will be with poor economic viability since even government doctors do not write prescriptions by Chemical name. It is not out of place to mention here that a large majority of patients could be covered with only the medicines that do not have any patent rights. The Prescription Audit is more needed since the present case is not only of not writing prescription with chemical name but even where branded drugs with lower MRP (Amodep-5 ) are available brands those with much higher MRP ( Amtas-5 ) are written what to talk of promoting Amlodipine 5mg where JA MRP is less than Rs.4/10 tab. It is not only for drugs, many people have raised questions on even on the clinical investigation / test arena toofor going extremely commercial and need is more for enforcing code like “Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices -UCPMP” in that direction also. Hope atleast the Prescription Audit is made a regular feature by Lt Governor Administration immediately by appointing regular independent Audit Cells at District Level with professionals from pharmacology / medicines therein. (Daya Sagar is a social activist and leading columnist on J&K affairs and can be reached at dayasagr45@yahoo.com)

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