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MCI norms to clip ‘tourist’ docs’ wings

JAIPUR: Through an amendment in its rules that govern the medical ethics in the country, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has prohibited the

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medical practitioners from attending seminars or events financed by pharmaceutical companies.

“A medical practitioner shall not accept any travel facility inside the country or outside, including rail, air, ship, cruise tickets, paid vacations etc, from any pharmaceutical or allied healthcare industry or their representatives for self and family members for vacation or for attending conferences, seminars, workshops, etc,” reads the MCI (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) (Amendment) Regulations, 2009.

Last year, major medical events attracted over 10,000 doctors, who were accompanied by their family members, resulting in a huge “tourist” turnout. According to market estimates, during such event the huge “tourist” inflow is a boon for the tourism sector and at least Rs 100 crore was generated last year.

However, the prospect of such events appears bleak this year after the new MCI guidelines come into effect. Gifts and all other favours offered by any pharmaceutical or allied health care industry or their representatives have been banned under the amended rules.

The recently notified MCI amendment came following the American Medical Association’s efforts to restrain the unethical attempts by certain pharmaceutical companies to influence drug recommendation by the medical practitioners.
Medical associations have welcomed of the amendment calling it a positive step. “Some pharmaceutical companies have been promoting corruption for undue benefits, bringing in bad reputation for other pharmaceutical companies as well as medical professionals,” said Dr S S Agarwal, national vice-president of Indian Medical Association.

“The amendments will pave the way to have a control over such unethical practices. Even as the immediate impact of the amendment cannot be judged, inclusion of the issue in ethics regulation will help control such activities,” he added.
Others in the industry are, however, not quite enthusiastic over the development. “In absence of any strict penalties against such violations, the norms will once again be limited to voluntary efforts. With direct funding coming under scanning, the companies will now look for alternative routes to provide such benefits to their favoured doctors,” said a pharmaceutical trader.

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