A platform for multinational drugmakers is seeking clarity on provisions involving doctor engagement and continuous medical education, among other things, outlined in the recently updated Uniform Code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP- 2024).

The updated code is directionally good, but the Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India will seek guidelines for implementation of the code, Anil Matai, OPPI Director-General, told businessline. A platform largely for multinational drug companies, OPPI has created a taskforce for identifying details that need clarity in the updated code, he said, adding that the organisation has its own ethical code, as well.

Need for more ‘teeth’

With the word ‘voluntary’ dropped from the code and ‘mandatory’ not mentioned, civil society voices have called for the UCPMP to have more ‘teeth’ to be enforceable. Matai said the industry would need to honour the UCPMP ‘in letter and spirit’ and foster collaborations with health practitioners ‘in a rightful way’.

Pointing to contractual obligations that may exist between doctors and drug companies, possibly in an advisory capacity, he said, a transition period needs to be indicated, to allow for the engagement to be completed. The code outlines engagement with doctors for research services, subject to the Income-Tax Act, 1961 and in line with the NMC (National Medical Commission) regulations.

On CMES, he said, clarity would be sought on how to approach an educational event hosted overseas by a multinational company, for instance, that would bring together a global fraternity.

CMEs are meant to update doctors on the new trends, drugs and technology from drugmakers, but it came under intense scrutiny after reports emerged of events hosted on cruises and family members being entertained. The updated UCPMP allows for these events to be held in India and in educational or medical institutions, thereby attempting to weed out cruises and other possible methods of inducement.

The code also outlines a ₹1,000 limit for brand-reminders etc., but clarity is needed on electronic educational material shared with doctors, on a pen-drive, for example and other wordings in the code that need to be defined for implementation, he explained.

The UCPMP 2024 was recently issued by the Department of Pharmaceuticals to draw an ethical line between drugs and drugmakers and to ensure there is no payment / inducement to push medicine prescriptions. The code continues to generate much discussion in the industry and among pro-health groups, with both sides seeking clarity on implementation of the code.