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MCI to penalize doctors who accept gifts from pharmaceutical companies

Posted Mar 19 2010 9:56pm
In a significant decision, the Medical Council of India has decided that doctors cannot take gifts from pharmaceutical companies. This is an excellent step.

It is common practice in the medical industry in India for pharmaceutical companies to give expensive gifts to doctors to encourage them to prescribe their products. Companies are also known to sponsor trips for doctors and their families to medical conferences in different cities in India and abroad. I have heard that many doctors look at these trips as pleasure trips rather than to learn new things or contribute anything to medicine.

I have experienced this personally too. I was with a particular nephrologist in Hyderabad during my Peritoneal Dialysis days. I wanted to switch to a cycler from the manual exchanges I was doing at that time. I was keen on using the Baxter cycler. This nephrologist kept insisting that I use a cycler manufactured by another company. I did a little digging around and found that the cycler being recommended by the nephrologist would not even suit me.

The cycler had a fixed fill volume of 2 liters whereas I might need varying fill volumes because I had problems sometimes with excess fluid leaking through the walls of my peritoneum. Also, the company was a relatively new entrant in the PD market in India. They did not have a strong presence. Baxter, on the other hand, had an excellent network in the country and were the leading PD company.

I tried reasoning with the nephrologist. He wouldn't listen. He gave me all kinds of reasons about why I should go with the new company. I wasn't convinced. I went to another nephrologist and took up the Baxter cycler.

A few months later, the new company wound up operations in India. So, my stand was vindicated.

I later learned that the nephrologist was cross with Baxter because they refused to sponsor him for a medical conference abroad! And the new company probably had struck a good deal with him.

This is what happens when considerations other than those that are purely medical influence decisions made by doctors. When a doctor recommends a medicine, laboratory investigation or treatment to a patient, the recommendation should be purely guided by what is best for the patient. Any other influence is totally unacceptable, entirely unethical and against all tenets of the Hippocratic oath all doctors are required to take.

The MCI has said that any doctor found to be accepting gifts from a pharmaceutical company will not only be disallowed from practicing but his or her name would be made public. This is an excellent decision and the MCI must be commended for taking it.
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