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Study shows widespread bribery in Indian pharmaceutical industry

Published on 29/11/19 at 12:48pm

A recent report by the Support for Advocacy and Training to Health Initiatives (Sathi) revealed the widespread use of bribes by pharmaceutical companies in India, and how they take advantage of the lax government penalties against such actions.

The report is based on in depth interviews with 50 medical representatives, area sales managers, doctors and pharma executives in six cities from last year. It detailed the prominent use of bribes including cash, expensive smartphones, microwave ovens, foreign trips, petrocards, credit cards and sometimes even prostitutes.

These pharmaceutical companies take advantage of the lack of laws designed to deal with this type of corruption. Though the code of ethics of the Medical Council of India bars doctors from accepting gifts, cash, travel facilities or hospitality, only between 10-20% of doctors follow this code of ethics.

This report follows similar practices being exposed back in August. Undercover reporting by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that Abbot and Sun Pharma gave high-value gifts to doctors to encourage them not to switch to their competitors. They also offered them extra money as an incentive to buy more antibiotics, leading to the overprescription of these drugs.

Since 2016, the Indian government has stalled on a proposal to bring in a Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices that would include legal penalties to combat the pharmaceutical industries’ bribery. The numerous reports this year will increase the pressure to introduce this legislation.

Conor Kavanagh

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