Lucre-loving Doctors in A Big Deal

with the Drug Companies

Boom markets now wait for the ever greedy doctors who not only make money by doing private practices, but also by accepting gifts and offer of going abroad from the Pharmaceutical companies to attend the so called (fishy!) medical conferences. These avaricious doctors do nothing in the medical conferences except buying gifts for their spouse and children. Some even take their spouse abroad along with them and a bigger deal is unofficially made outside the hospital premises.This is done mostly by the senior doctors who enjoy good positions in the hospitals of the mega cities. Some of them head the Centre of Excellences even.

It is an open secret that accepting a gift establishes a relationship between the physician and the drug company that obliges a response from the physician. Accepting gifts and the resulting relationship have ethical implications as well. First, the use of patients' money to pay for gifts can be unjust. Second, the fiduciary relationship between physician and patient may be threatened if prescribing practices are affected.

Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus sold his soul to Mephistopheles for enjoying pleasures uninterrupted for 24 years and yet felt a poignant pain on the last night of the contract. But these doctors do not feel any such repentance until income tax officials serve a notice to them.

The income tax department has said drug companies cannot claim money spent on gifts to doctors. But who pays heed to the Income tax or to the directives of the Medical Council of India. The MCI, the country’s highest medical regulator which had three years ago issued guidelines prohibiting doctors from accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies above the value of Rs 1,000. Acceptance of gifts is a violation of the MCI’s code of professional conduct. The laws have a good many gaps and without the knowledge of who’s giving and who’s taking, it’s really very difficult for the Medical Council to punish such unethical doctors who for pleasing their wives and daughters bunk the legal restraints.

It is matter of deep concern that the continued, persistent violation of the code of ethics of the MCI by doctors occurs in the big hospitals of the mega cities, some of which are having the ‘Centre of Excellence’ title. All men are purchased provided you know the price.

Of late, in the fourth episode of Aamir Khan’s television show, 'Satyamev Jayate' focused on health care services in our country. Aamir’s guests on the show included doctors, victims and families who lost their loved ones due to negligence of doctors. Now the other side of the coin is also exposed. The cat is out of the bag. The doctors even the senior ones, not only neglect, they also take bribes from the drug companies. Some senior doctors used to corrupt practices take advantage of their high positions and allow the drug company representatives to use friendships and personal gifts to foster a ‘quid pro quo’ relationship with them. Those who are very much on the verge of retirement are shameless in their use of the drug companies to enhance their personal status and comforts at the cost of all ethics and MCI rules.

Doctors publicly deny that they are influenced in their prescribing habits. But it is now an open secret that they are indirectly influenced by important scientific information. Consumers also have to be more realistic. So many people feel entitled to the latest, greatest, hottest medications and treatments, but most of us are financially insulated by our insurance from the cost of this care. Very few care what is actually happening in the name of medical treatment. Rewarding physicians with gifts and attention for their allegiance to their product and company despite what may be ethically appropriate is now a regular event. Writing generic names is not accepted by the doctors. Doctors are on their trip abroad evey now and then at the offer of the companies. They flaunt their status by telling about their foreign trips. In exchange, they slavishly follow the instructions of the medical companies.

Drug companies will now have to disclose to income tax officials on demand the names of doctors who have accepted gifts from them in a fresh government move to curb unethical promotional practices that may hurt patients’ health and pockets.

Drug companies spend money like anything for promoting their drugs to physicians. Drug Reps use unbelievable tactics to manipulate doctors to be generous with free samples to leverage sales. It is interesting to know that the companies commonly hire former cheerleaders, ex-models, former athletes and military members to ensure their reps to have a certain appealing look and outgoing personality. They provide samples, gifts, services, and flattery to a subset of physicians. Cheerful and charming, bearing food and gifts, drug reps provide respite and sympathy; they appreciate how hard doctor's lives are, and seem only to want to ease their burdens. But every word, every courtesy, every gift, and every piece of information provided is carefully crafted, not to assist doctors or patients, but to increase market share for targeted drugs.

It is the jobs of the drug reps to figure out what a physician's price is. For some it's dinner at the finest restaurants, for others it is foreign trip, either single or with the spouse, but at the most basic level, everything is for sale and everything is an exchange. Corruption percolates from the higher to the lower. Unsuspecting medical students, senior doctors who are on the verge of their retirements and residential medical officers of the nursing homes are among the drug companies’ best targets. They favour the drug paradigm set by the companies in exchange of monetary gains. Some of these avaricious doctors work as paid slaves of the companies. They get easily brainwashed by the medical representatives. It is heartening to note that the Income tax department has at last come forward to restrain the greedy doctors who accept gifts. Now onwards, they need to declare their equivalent value as taxable income.But will the coal take any other hue? Grave doubts remain.


More by :  Dr. Ratan Bhattacharjee

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