ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 9, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 41

No direct schols for docs

The Sri Lanka Medical Council (SLMC) which has the legal power to enforce code of ethics for medical practitioners has decided to intervene in what is widely seen as a crisis in the unethical promotion of medicinal drugs and the influence that pharmaceutical companies have on medical consultants and general practitioners.

Recently the SLMC appointed a committee to advise it on revising the guidelines and code of ethics for medical and dental practitioners at a time when growing concern is being expressed as to whether medicine which was once revered as a vocation is now degenerating into a trade or business.

After holding two meetings the SLMC has decided to take one effective step to ensure that pharmaceutical companies do not have improper influence or unethical relationships with individual doctors. A spokesman said the SLMC will be writing to the Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industries – an association of all drug companies directing that in future any scholarships, holidays here or abroad and other facilities should not be offered to individual doctors but to the medical associations and colleges which in turn select suitable candidate or candidates.

This is expected to help maintain transparency, accountability and a high degree of ethics. Patients’ rights and health action groups have welcomed the SLMC move as an effective first step in bringing about a higher degree of ethics in the medical profession and restoring a health service where the well-being of the patients is given top priority. Meanwhile a source close to President Mahinda Rajapaksa said the President had no intension of removing key provisions from the proposed National Medicinal Drugs Policy based on the essential medicinal concept of Professor Senaka Bibile. The source said President Rajapaksa had only expressed objections to the policy being implemented in bits and pieces such as the directive issued by the Health Ministry two months ago ordering that all government doctors should prescribe drugs only under their generic names. The President’s assurance was welcomed by patients rights and health action groups which had recently expressed concern that representatives of the Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industries at a meeting with the President recently had persuaded him to dilute the proposed National Medicinal Drugs Policy in a manner that would make it toothless if not ineffective or useless.

The Government Medical Officers Association comprising some 15,000 doctors and parties like the JVP, the LSSP the CP and the JHU have also urged the President to go ahead with the implementation of the National Medicinal Drugs Policy based on Senaka Bibile’s Essential Medicinal Concept to make quality drugs made available to all people at affordable prices.

This was one of the promises given in the Mahinda Chintanaya. A spokesman for the GMOA said the piecemeal and premature directive issued by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva in January this year for the prescription of only generic drugs had setoff a backlash against the comprehensive national medicinal drug policy and led to questions whether the directive was an attempt to undermine or sabotage the whole national drug policy.

He said top ministry officials appeared to be blocking the implementation of the comprehensive national drugs policy based on the essential medicine concept. Meanwhile, the People’s Movement for the Rights of Patients is launching a new programme for health education and empowerment of schoolchildren.

The first of these programmes will be held tomorrow at Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya. The speakers will include Prof. Carlo Fonseka, former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dr. K. Balasubramaniam, coordinator of Health Action International Asia Pacific and world drug policy expert.

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