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Pharma firms may face legal action for unethical marketing practices

Pharmaceutical companies could face legal action if they are found to be involved in unethical marketing practices. A high level committee formed under Niti Aayog’s VK Paul will meet this week to review the regulatory framework around marketing practices in the pharma sector.

The committee has been formed by the health minister Mansukh Mandaviya after reports that companies are spending exorbitantly on promotion of drugs.

“The first meeting will be held on September 29. The committee will review the existing practice and what is required so as to ensure that it is followed,” said a person in the know.

Last week, the government constituted a five-member committee chaired by r VK Paul, NITI Aayog member (health), S. Aparna, secretary of the department of pharmaceuticals, Rajesh Bhushan Union health secretary and Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) chairman Nitin Gupta as members, and N Yuvraj, joint secretary (policy) from the department of pharmaceuticals as member secretary.

At present publicity and promotion by pharma companies is supervised under the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP), the Indian Medical Council Regulations, 2002, and also by the Central Board of Direct Tax.

“Hence, to examine the issue holistically and align the interventions by various stakeholder departments and also to examine all the related issues on the requirement of a legally enforceable mechanism for regulating marketing practices, a High Level Committee is constituted,” the Office memorandum by DoP said.

The committee is supposed to submit its report in 90 days. It has been tasked to examine the provisions of stakeholder departments with respect to pharmaceutical marketing practices and align the interventions for effective implementation among health care providers and industry

The committee will also examine the related issues on the requirement of “legally enforceable mechanism” for regulating marketing practices, including study of the practices across the globe”.

The UCPMP has been voluntarily adopted by the pharmaceutical companies since 2015. However, concerns over the influence of offering gifts to medical professionals by pharmaceutical companies have surged from time to time.

Last month, the Federation of Medical Sales Representative of India had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court informing the court that the Central Board of Direct Taxes has accused Micro Labs, makers of Dolo, of distributing ₹1,000 crore freebies to doctors for prescribing the medicine.

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