This article on Uniform Code for Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices (UCPMP) is written by Prankur Chaturvedi, a corporate lawyer and is currently working as a Legal Counsel with Cipla Limited.
Unethical promotion of medicines by pharmaceutical companies has been a matter of serious concern for the government for some years. Promotion of drugs by way of direct cash payments for prescribing, sponsoring of pleasure trips and other incentives to physicians form more than 20 per cent of the price of drugs. The need to eliminate such avoidable costs on medicines is extremely relevant today when the prices of most of the essential medicines are beyond the reach of common man. Irrational and unnecessary consumption of medicines by patients has also increased considerably in recent years because of motivated prescriptions by the physicians. One of the main reasons for the rising antibiotic resistance among patients is this excessive intake of drugs. It is in this context the government has been considering to put an end to this unethical trade practice. In fact, the DoP had first come out with a voluntary code of conduct for pharma companies to curb this unethical practice in 2011. But it never got implemented due to various reasons. Now, the proposed UCPMP is also a voluntary code to be adopted by the pharma companies with the expected monitoring of industry bodies. Unethical promotion of drugs is a result of increased competition among the pharma companies and that has only increased over the years.
As per the Code, no gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind may be supplied or offered to physicians to prescribe drugs by a pharmaceutical company or any of its agents or distributors. Gifts for the personal benefit of healthcare professionals or their family members should not be offered or provided by the pharma companies. Further, pharmaceutical companies or their associations are not allowed to extend any hospitality like hotel accommodation to healthcare practitioners and their family members under any pretext. They are also not allowed to pay any cash or monetary grants to any healthcare professional for individual purpose in individual capacity under any pretext. And the companies should not provide free samples of drugs to any person, not qualified to prescribe such product. The Managing Director or the Chief Executive Officer of the company will be responsible for ensuring adherence to the Code and a self-declaration should be submitted by the MD or CEO within two months of date of issue of UCPMP and thereafter at the end of every financial year to the Industry Association. The DoP has also asked all the pharma industry associations to constitute an Ethics Committee for Pharma Marketing Practices (ECPMP), for handling complaints relating to the implementation of UCPMP.
The voluntary code for the Indian Pharma Industry aims to specifically regulate practices related to Pharma Company marketing their products to HCPs and their relationship with the latter. For efficient and effective adherence to the code laid down by the Government, it is important for all pharma companies to establish a strong compliance mechanism in their respective organizations to cover and rectify deviations, if any.
The main objective of UCPMP is not to penalize but to name and shame the organizations which are found guilty of not complying with the provisions mentioned in the code. In a country like ours, compliance in the marketing field has always been a key challenge. Therefore the success of the voluntary adoption of this new marketing code by the pharma companies is something to be seen.