The Pharma Corner

This page will carry a selection of issues facing India’s pharma industry and the face-off between public health and private industry:


1) India weighs mandatory UCPMP to curb unfair pharma marketing practices:

India is considering making its voluntary Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP) mandatory to curb unfair marketing practices by pharma companies, including providing incentives for doctors to prescribe their products.

A notification from India’s Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) issued in September says, “It has been decided that the UCPMP, also covering the medical devices industry, which was implemented with effect from January 1, 2015 for a period of six months and which was last extended up to June 30, 2016 is hereby extended till further orders.”

Earlier in July, India’s minister for chemicals and fertilizers, Ananth Kumar, said that that voluntary UCPMP was not yielding the expected results and that the government was contemplating making the code compulsory.

The latest move on UCPMP is an attempt to address a long-standing problem of pharma companies striking deals with local physicians, in which the latter prescribe products after getting commissions from the former. The practice is especially rampant in the case of chronic problems such as diabetes, heart disorders and asthma. Other freebies to influence doctors include sponsorship of doctors’ foreign trips in the name of continuing medical education (CME), sponsoring trips to medical conferences abroad, and organizing ‘free’ medical diagnosis camps in conjunction with the doctors.

In India, two laws govern the sale and promotion of drugs — the Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954, and the Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976 – neither of which spell out a proper policy on unethical practices.

Additionally, a section on Rebates and Commissions in the Medical Council of India (MCI’s) “Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics, Regulations 2002” stipulates that “A physician shall not give, solicit, or receive nor shall he offer to give solicit or receive, any gift, gratuity, commission or bonus in consideration of or return for the referring, recommending or procuring of any patient for medical, surgical or other treatment. A physician shall not directly or indirectly, participate in or be a party to act of division, transference, assignment, subordination, rebating, splitting or refunding of any fee for medical, surgical or other treatment.”

Faced with rising instances of violations of these clauses, India’s ministry of chemicals and fertilizers in 2009 noted the need to address the issue of unethical promotion of medicines, in the interests of patients, as it would impact drug prices.

In December 2014, the government announced the UCPMP and directed the pharmaceutical industry to adopt it voluntarily and comply with it for a period of six months, beginning 01 January, 2015. The UCMP has since been extended four times, since the first deadline of June 2015.

Read the full report in BioWorld :