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Guidelines regarding sponsorship of medical conferences by pharma industry

Dr M C Gupta, a doctor turned lawyer, provides medico-legal comments on the MCI (Medical Council of India) guidelines as regards sponsorship of conferences and other events by the pharma industry.

Dr M C Gupta

Dr Gupta holds an MD (Medicine) from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi; an LLB from Delhi University and an LLM from Kurukshetra University. He has served as a faculty member at AIIMS for 18 years and as professor and dean at the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare. Currently, Dr Gupta is a practising advocate with health and medical law as the area of special interest. He is a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Indian Law Institute.

You Ask:

What are the MCI guidelines as regards sponsorship of conferences and other events by the pharma industry?

— Dr V Mahesh, secretary, Family Physicians’ Association, Bangalore

Dr Gupta Responds:

The above notification adds a new regulation to the pre-existing The Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations, 2002. This new

1—Regulation No. 6.8.1 (notified vide MCI-211(1)/2009(Ethics)/55667 dated 10th December 2009, regarding the relations between doctors and the pharmaceutical companies) is partly reproduced below:

“6.8 Code of conduct for doctors and professional association of doctors in their relationship with pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry.

6.8.1 In dealing with pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry, a medical practitioner shall follow and adhere to the stipulations given below:

a) Gifts: A medical practitioner shall not receive any gift from any pharmaceutical or allied healthcare industry and their sales people or representatives.

b) Travel facilities: 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, CME programme etc as a delegate.

c) Hospitality: A medical practitioner shall not accept individually any hospitality like hotel accommodation for self and family members under any pretext.

d) Cash or monetary grants: A medical practitioner shall not receive any cash or monetary grants from any pharmaceutical and allied healthcare industry for individual purpose in individual capacity under any pretext. Funding for medical research, study etc can only be received through approved institutions by modalities laid down by law/rules/guidelines adopted by such approved institutions, in a transparent manner. It shall always be fully disclosed.”

2—In simple words, what the above states is that a medical practitioner should not accept any gifts, travel facilities, hospitality, cash or monetary grant, etc for himself or his family. However, it apparently permits some of these being channelled through an association or institution. The importance of the regulation lies in the fact that now the following would become possible:

a—Anybody can complain to the medical council that a doctor is violating regulation 6.8.1 and, acting upon the complaint, the medical council can punish the doctor as per law.

b—A consumer can complain to the consumer court that the service provided by a doctor was deficient or negligent because he prescribed a medicine or appliance or test etc wrongly or unnecessarily in return for favours granted by the pharmaceutical company, even though acceptance of such favours was illegal.

3—The ban is apparently only on travel facilities for vacation or for attending conferences, seminars, workshops, CME programme etc as a delegate. Giving a lecture seems to be excluded.

4—The practice prevalent among physicians of accepting gifts from pharma companies for promotion of their products is against law. It is specifically banned by the MCI Regulations, 2002. Similar ban operates in USA and other countries.

5—The practice prevalent among pharma companies for giving gifts in order to promote their products was not covered under any law so far. Around mid-2012, the Department of Income Tax has issued instructions that expenditure incurred in this connection by the pharma companies would not entitle them for claiming any tax benefits.

6—The question of promotion of pharma products is intimately linked with the practice of promoting brand names of drugs. The Drug Controller General has taken a decision around August-September, 2012 that no permission for brand names would be given in future.

Dr M C Gupta (Former Professor and Dean)
MD (Medicine), LLM
Advocate (Delhi Bar Council No. 857/2001)
Phone: 9999-333-801

Be First to Comment

  1. Gopal k Dash Gopal k Dash Friday, May 5, 2017

    Can a doctor deliver a talk and train junior physicians in a CME organised by Pharma and receive professional fees for that service . Is it legal in India ?

  2. inita matta inita matta Friday, July 18, 2014

    and what about expensive lunches and dinners sponsored by pharma cos. at conferences and C.M.E s?

  3. Pavani M Pavani M Sunday, October 27, 2013

    The rules laid down by MCI controlling both doctors and pharmaceutical companies appear great on paper but not practiced. Doctors and pharmaceutical companies continue to stick to their old tradition.If any doctor has good number of patients,he is sponsored free trips to national and international events on regular basis.In India rules are laid down at every level only to act selectively if the doctor does not enjoy the support of local politicians or higher authorities.But once supreme court private practice as business and brought doctors under consumer act.Why MCI still thinks that doctors are different from businessman.

  4. Averol Averol Sunday, October 27, 2013

    Great article. Thanks for sharing

  5. Dr Ajay Kumar Dr Ajay Kumar Saturday, July 27, 2013

    all rules seems to be relevant with individual capacity of a doctor…what about professional association of doctors for eg any state or district association of some speciality organizing any conferences or any meet or any other functions???

  6. Arin Arin Saturday, July 27, 2013

    Does it cover physician samples?

  7. Dr Devinder Singh Sandhu Dr Devinder Singh Sandhu Saturday, July 27, 2013

    Very informative article by Dr Gupta – Great
    Dr Devinder Singh Sandhu, MD, DM, AIIMS
    Oncologist and Hematologist

    Cancer trainings at –
    • All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, India
    • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), New York, USA
    • MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas, Houston, USA

    Sandhu Cancer Centre
    Udham Singh Nagar Market, Near Lions Club, Civil Lines, Ludhiana, Punjab, India – 141001
    Telephone: 91-9876991155, Fax: 91-161-4647155

  8. Ved Mahla, M.D. Ved Mahla, M.D. Friday, July 26, 2013

    Two queries:
    1. Can doctors work on advisory body of pharma company or give them a professional advice in return for a fees in a transparent manner with TDS in place?
    2. Can an event management company including organizations engaged into organizing CMEs sponsor a doctor’s conference?
    Ved Mahla, Rohtak

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