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Laxmi Yadav, Mumbai September 23 , 2022
The Pharmaceutical industry has hailed the formation of a high-level committee to review their marketing practices, saying that it will streamline rules governing marketing practices of the industry and bring clarity on regulations drug makers need to comply with while marketing their products.
 
Headed by VK Paul, member (health), NITI Aayog, the five-member committee set up by the government on September 12, 2022 will submit its recommendation to Mansukh Mandaviya, Union minister of health and family welfare and chemicals and fertilizers in three-month on harmonization of various rules regulating marketing practices of drug companies as well as making marketing practice codes legally enforceable to curb malpractices by pharma companies.
 
The other members of the panel include S Aparna, secretary, department of pharmaceuticals; Rajesh Bhushan, secretary, Union ministry of health and family welfare; Nitin Gupta, chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT); and a joint secretary (policy) from the department of pharmaceuticals.
 
The government has taken a decision to this effect after coming across the fact that several pharmaceutical companies have spent enormous money on marketing of their products. Recently Micro Labs Limited was accused of spending huge amounts of money on branding of anti-fever medicine, Dolo-650 mg which was widely sold during the second wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
 
At present, Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP), Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002, and rules under Central Board of Direct Tax (CBDT) are regulating marketing practices of the drug companies.

The government has put in place a UCPMP for pharmaceutical companies, which is in operation since January 1, 2015 to prevent unethical practices by drug makers. This code governs the conduct of pharmaceutical companies in their marketing practices, duly covering the various aspects such as medical representatives, textual and audio-visual promotional materials, samples, gifts, etc. Further, the code establishes relationships with healthcare professionals, wherein the provisions related to travel facilities, hospitality and cash or monetary grants to physicians or their families have been elaborated.
 
The Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002 formed under Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 (102 of 1956), provides for conduct for doctors and professional association of doctors in their relationship with pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry. Under this, any complaint of professional misconduct of a medical practitioner or professional is to be addressed by the respective State Medical Councils.
 
As per the rules under Central Board of Direct Tax, drug companies are required to submit details on the amount they spend on branding of their products. The Supreme Court also upheld that a drug firm cannot offer gifts to doctors as per provisions of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
 
Said Sudarshan Jain, Secretary General, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), “This is a welcome step towards harmonization of the multiple rules regulating marketing practices of the industry. This will bring more clarity on regulations the industry needs to follow while marketing their products. There should be unified rules regulating the marketing practices with focus on patient centricity and industry growth.”
 
Amit Chawla, member, pharma wing, Laghu Udyog Bharati said, “This is a much needed step towards streamlining various pharma marketing codes. We are looking for panel’s consultation with pharma MSMEs before finalization of suggestions on effective implementation of marketing practice codes.”

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