Hyderabad : It is beyond any doubt that nothing can be worse than state intervention in the functioning of professionals and the economy, which are linked to one another. This impact gets evidenced from the recent diktat to medical practitioners that they should prescribe only generic medicines. The Registered Medical Practitioner (Professional Conduct) Regulations 2023 not only mandate prescription of generic drugs but also prohibit doctors from participating in seminars and conferences that have “direct or indirect sponsorships from pharmaceutical companies or the allied health sector.”
The regulatory body intends to make healthcare affordable, as generic medicines are 30 to 80 per cent cheaper than branded ones. Not surprisingly, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has opposed the newly notified regulations that have been brought in by the National Medical Commission (NMC). The Association has urged the government to withdraw the regulation and enforce them only if it is proven at every level that generic medicines meet quality standards. An IMA, a team of which met Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya recently, is also opposed to the move to bar practicing doctors from participation in seminars and workshops organized by pharmaceutical companies. It reportedly explained to the Minister that these events provide “opportunities for exchange of knowledge, productive discussions and help doctors and all medical practitioners to stay updated with the prevailing trends.”
Promotion of generic medicines and the alleged nexus between medical practitioners and pharma companies are often debated, especially the latter. However, there is hardly any substantial evidence to prove the ‘nexus’. In August last year, a NGO had charged Dolo-650 maker Micro Labs that it bribed doctors with freebies worth Rs 1,000 crore in one year to promote the popular antipyretic. The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), an organization of domestic drug makers, did not find any substance in the charge. Its report, released a month later, mentioned that their probe revealed that the allegations were baseless and unwarranted. Yet, Left-leaning NGOs and activists keep screaming about the doctor-pharma company nexus all the time.
A public interest litigation filed in the Supreme Court sought disciplinary action against doctors who do not prescribe generic alternatives. The views of such bodies and people are the result of the dogma that haunts them-all private enterprises are profit-seeking ventures and thus immoral. They are oblivious of the facts, and prefer to remain so. Sadly, such views are rarely checked in the public domain. Even the Narendra Modi government seems to have accepted their discredited and dangerous ideas without scrutinizing them.
Equally unfortunate is the fact that the NMC did not elicit views of the crucial stakeholders. There is also an attitudinal issue. Why are doctors and pharmaceutical companies suspected of being innately corrupt? Those who indulge in unscrupulous practices can, and should, be penalized and, if need be, thrown behind bars, but why are all of them seen as potentially unprincipled? Bad ideas and maladroit regulations generate bad ideas. So, the IMA has advised the government to intervene and reduce the cost of branded medicines. The prescribed remedy is worse than the malady. The government should dump NMC’s regulations.