Monday, January 11, 2010

The Medical Council of India Sets Tough Rules about Pharma

Rema Nagarajan, a journalist friend who writes for the Times of India, brought to my attention a recent ruling of the Medical Council of India about physician relationships with Pharma and other health sector industries. On paper at least, the ruling is very tough! The rules include:
  • Physicians shall not accept any gifts whatsoever
  • Physicians (and their families) shall not accept any paid travel, whether for CME or any other purpose
  • Physicians shall not accept any "hospitality" (such as hotel accomodations)
  • Physicians shall not accept any cash payments whatsoever
  • Any research funding must come through institutions, subject to a range of regulations

India is an international target for drug trials, given the size of its population and the laxness of its human subjects protections. And, many physicians are struggling financially such that attendance at educational conferences, especially outside of the country, was essentially impossible for them, making them prey to the appeal of travel funds or gifts of office equipment.

Rules are one thing and enforcement is another. It's not yet clear what the consequences of violation will be. But the Medical Council has put a strong stake in the ground, for which it deserves international recognition.

(For previous posts about pharmaceutical ethics in India see here, here, here and here. For Rema Nagarajan's article in the Times of India see here.)


eric said...

p.s. the head of MCI of India was recently arrested for accepting bribes.

Jim Sabin said...

Hi Eric -

I'm sorry for the slow response to your comment - I've been away from the blog for a week.

The story about Dr. Desai, President of the Medical Council, is sad. The bribes he's alleged to have taken were for accrediting a medical school that otherwise might not have achieved accreditation. That's a VERY major betrayal of professional trust.

My doctor friends in India tell me that corruption in the health sphere is, alas, not uncommon.