News Excerpt
Recently, the Department of Pharmaceuticals reiterated to the pharma companies to follow the Uniform code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP).This directive came in the wake of recent reports of widespread use of bribes and inducement by Pharma companies to the doctors to increase the sale of their products.

●    India carries a huge potential in the pharmaceuticals sector. It is the largest provider of generic drugs accounting for 20 per cent of global exports in terms of volume.
●    The Indian pharmaceutical market size is expected to grow to US$ 100 billion by 2025.
●    Indian pharma’s cost of production is about 33 percent lower than that of the US.
●    Labour costs are about 55 percent cheaper than the Western countries.
●    India has the 2nd largest number of USFDA-approved manufacturing plants outside the US
●    Pharma sector in India needs consolidation as it is highly fragmented.
●    Indian Medical Association (IMA) and doctors are pushing for making UCPMP compulsory.

⮚    It is a voluntary code issued by the Department of Pharmaceuticals notified in 2015 to deal with the marketing practices of the Indian Pharmaceutical companies. The law is crucial for an industry that has nothing to regulate it—neither a law nor any guidelines.
⮚    It is applicable on:
o    Pharmaceutical Companies
o    Medical Representatives
o    Agents of Pharmaceutical Companies which includes Distributors, Wholesalers, Retailers and Manufacturers’ Associations.
⮚    Major Provisions of the UCPMP includes:
o    It calls for putting an end to the pecuniary advantages and other benefits offered to people who prescribe or supply drugs by pharma companies or their agents. This includes any holiday or travel benefits offered in the name of being delegates.
o    It also provides for a free sample of drugs that can only be supplied to persons qualified to prescribe such product. There are also additional conditions in providing samples.
o    It calls for written contract in appointment of Medical Practitioners/HCPs as Affiliates and criteria for selecting affiliates must be directly related to the identified need.
o    It also provides for the number of affiliates retained must not be greater than the number reasonably necessary and must reflect the fair market value of the services provided.

Need of UCPMP
    The idea of pharma being a self-regulated industry didn’t work out well. There are incidents where Doctors were found hand-in-glove with pharma companies which works negatively in the interest of patients (as they are forced to buy costly medicines).
    Moreover, there is no law to punish those guilty of unethical practice. There are a number of challenges in Indian pharma industry when it comes to the arena of compliance.
    The industry is marred with fraudulent schemes which are deeply entrenched into the system and are mingled into the day-to-day operations and accounting practices employed in the industry.
    Owing to the complex manner in which these schemes operate, they remain concealed unless the substance of the activity is specifically analyzed.
    Various experts asked for immediate implementation of mandatory mechanism for company disclosures of payments towards doctors and professional bodies, including via third parties.

What can be done?
    Focus more on R&D and improving the development activities rather than marketing aspect.
    Doctors must be sensitized to adhere to the code of ethics and in case of violation appropriate punishment must be given.
    For pharmaceutical firms, there must be a legal code which is not only mandatory but also curbs the malpractices.  
    There is also a need to develop a huge infrastructure for quality testing of generic drugs.

Code of Medical Conduct (MCI)
Medical Council of India developed code of ethics for a doctor, which was last updated in 2002.  These are legally enforceable group of laws.  According to them:
    A physician cannot act as models in advertisement.
    It also bars a doctor from giving, soliciting or receiving any gift, gratuity, commission or bonus in consideration or return for the referring, recommending or procuring for any patient for the treatment.