The government has refused to reveal the details of the objections raised by the Law Ministry to the draft Essential Commodities (Control of Unethical Practices in Marketing of Drugs) Order 2017.

This draft order, which was circulated in June this year, has been blocked by the Law Ministry, which said it could not be passed under the proposed legal framework.

Uniform code

In response to an application filed under the Right to Information Act by a doctor and health activist, GS Grewal, the government has also declined to comment on any latest proposals on uniform code of pharmaceutical marketing practices (UCPMP), citing the section under the RTI Act that gives the government the right to deny information if it could “affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State.”

Ironically, the government has been cracking down on pharmaceutical companies for alleged unethical practices such as funding of doctors, even though the existing rules governing marketing in the industry are only voluntary.

Grewal said, “We have been knocking at the doors of the highest office in the country (PMO) and they admitted to corruption in the medical industry. Despite that, the code of conduct remains voluntary. Why such double standards? Corruption by pharmaceuticals and healthcare professionals continue unabated.”

Loopholes in draft

The draft order on marketing of drugs was also seen as going easy on the industry, with several loopholes that could be exploited by the industry to manipulate the market. While the order sought to block direct funding to doctors and chemists, the rules allowed for alternate routes, such as funding medical seminars through associations.

It also allows pharmaceutical companies to pay doctors their “daily income” for participating in health awareness camps, and kept the burgeoning medical devices sector completely out of the ambit of these regulations.