Dolo-650 makers gave freebies worth Rs 1000 crore to doctors for prescribing tablet: Medical body to SC

Dolo-650 makers gave freebies worth Rs 1000 crore to doctors for prescribing tablet: Medical body to SC

A PIL filed by the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India, stated that DOLO had invested 1,000 crores in freebies to have its anti-fever drug prescribed to patients.

Manufacturers of the Paracetamol drug ‘Dolo’, which became popular as a drug during the Covid-19 pandemic, spent over Rs 1,000 crores as freebies on doctors, a body of medical representatives told the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India, told the bench, “Over Rs 1,000 crore freebies have been given by Dolo company for the 650mg formulation. The doctors were prescribing an irrational dose combination,” the lawyer said. He cited a report from the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) as the source of his information.

Justice DY Chandrachud, who was heading the bench also comprising Justice AS Bopanna, said, “What you are saying is not music to my ears. This (drug) is exactly what I had when I had Covid.”

The PIL by the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India has raised concerns about control of drug formulations and prices of the medicines being sold in India. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna, after hearing submissions by Sanjay Parikh, observed that it was a serious issue.

‘Serious Issue’, Says Court
The court has now asked the Center to file it’s response to the PIL within a week and will hear the matter again after 10 days.

“This is a serious issue. It should not be treated as adversarial litigation,” remarked the bench.

The federation has moved a PIL seeking directions to make pharmaceutical companies liable for giving freebies to doctors as an incentive to prescribe their drugs. The plea has sought court directions from the Center to create statutory backing to the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP).

Parikh in his arguments also said, “There is currently no law or regulation that prohibits such practices in the absence of any statutory basis for the UCPMP, a voluntary set of rules for the sector.”

“Corruption in pharmaceutical marketing practices is unregulated in India despite being a signatory to the UN Convention against corruption,” claims the petition.

Speaking to India Today, after the hearing, Sanjay Parikh said, “Unnecessary pharmaceuticals are prescribed by doctors in return for freebies given by pharma companies. The UCPMP code has been created to tackle this problem. The menace is increasing day by day.”

The senior lawyer also said that the Dolo case was cited as an example, since it is the most recent issue.

“For 500 mg paracetamol, pricing is prescribed by the drug pricing authority. But when you increase it to 650 mg, then it goes beyond the controlled price. That’s why it is being promoted so much. This was an example of freebies. There are more antibiotics in the market that are being promoted in different combinations even when they are not required. There must be a statutory framework to control drug formulations,” Parikh said.

Provide details of doctors ‘given’ freebies by Dolo 650 maker: NMC to IT Department
Meanwhile, The National Medical Commission (NMC) has sought from the Income Tax Department details of doctors who allegedly received freebies from six pharma companies including Dolo 650 maker Micro Labs against whom raids were conducted last month.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the administrative body for the I-T department, in July had accused the makers of the widely-used Dolo-650 tablet of indulging in “unethical practices” and distributing freebies of about Rs 1,000 crore to doctors and medical professionals in exchange for promoting its products.

The Income Tax department had on July 6 raided 36 premises of Bengaluru-based Micro Labs Ltd. across nine states.

In a letter on Aug 3, the NMC requested CBDT chairperson Nitin Gupta to “send the names along with registration number and addresses of doctors involved so that those details may be forwarded to state medical councils concerned for information and necessary action”.

In the letter Dr Yogender Malik, a member of the NMC’s Ethics and Medical Registration Board (EMRB), drew attention to section 6.8 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct. Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, amended from time to time, which prescribes code of conduct for doctors in their relationship with pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry.

It is apposite to mention here that in the first instance, any complaint regarding professional misconduct by a registered medical practitioner is to be dealt by the state medical council concerned, he said.

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