Code of Conduct for pharma industry bars ‘exotic’ offers for doctors
The newly amended Code of Marketing Pharmaceutical Practices has laid down strict guidelines preventing the offering or providing of any favours including foreign trips for medical practitioners in return for prescribing drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry which had come under some criticism in the recent past for alleged unethical marketing practices has laid down in its Code with some strong restrictions for its members which include linking sponsorships to International /Local medical Congresses, to any obligation to prescribe, recommend or promote any pharmaceutical product.
The Sri Lanka Chamber for Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) Code also specifically prohibits members from organising any social events for doctors and clearly states that any sponsorship which involves symposiums or professional meetings should be purely to inform about healthcare products or provide scientific or educational information that would benefit the healthcare professionals and the healthcare industry. It also prohibits pharmaceutical companies from sponsoring spouses or family members as accompanying persons when the healthcare professionals travel to such meetings.
Rule ‘9’ which refers to procedures and responsibilities that the pharmaceutical companies need to abide by says that all companies represented by the Chamber have to ensure that they comply by the rules and regulations set out in the code and take full responsibility for monitoring and reviewing all of their promotional activities and materials.
All companies are required to designate an employee with ‘sufficient knowledge and appropriate scientific or healthcare qualifications’ to be responsible for approving all professional communications.
The Chamber has laid down strict laws that will ensure compliance of pharmaceutical companies to the Code. A Disciplinary Committee comprising of the President of the Chamber as chairman, three immediate past presidents and the secretary has been formed to look into complaints brought to the chamber against companies alleged of being in breach of the conduct. The Code also specifically states that in the event any member belonging to the committee is part of the company being investigated that member will be replaced by nominees of the SLCPI’s executive committee to ensure fair-play. In the event a complaint is upheld and breach of the Code is established, information identifying the company concerned and the complainant will be made public by the SLCPI. Information will also be made public in cases where companies fail to respond to the SLCPI within the specified time limit.
Chamber President Adrian Basnayake said that the new code contains strong provisions which could even see its members expelled from the Chamber if they are found guilty of unethical marketing practices. “This would also mean that members who are expelled from the Chamber will also lose their ministry accreditation and this information will be placed in the public domain,” he said. According to the Code no pharmaceutical product shall be promoted for use in Sri Lanka until the requisite approval for marketing for such use has been given by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka.
Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who was the chief guest at a ceremony where the Code was presented, noted that medical representatives are playing a vital role in updating the knowledge of doctors about new pharmaceuticals and to promote drugs. But the minister said that they should not resort to unethical practices.
He added that the Ministry has taken a decision to promote generic drugs as ordinary people should be able to buy medicinal drugs at affordable prices.
The Minister said the State Pharmaceutical Corporation plays a vital role in supplying some essential drugs at reasonable prices creating a healthy competition to stabilize prices.