The study found a total of 2,79,669 physicians received roughly 63,500 payments totaling $1.4 million associated with the four identified brand-name drugs.
A simple pizza can dictate a doctor’s prescription. Doctors enjoying free meals from drug-makers are likely to prescribe their medicines and more the number of meals, higher the chances of such prescriptions, says a new international study.
However, even low value meals like a pizza can influence the prescription, says the findings of the cross-sectional study, published in a latest issue of international journal JAMA Internal Medicine. The study is based on analysis of data of payments made by the industry as well as prescriptions from doctors.
The study found a total of 2,79,669 physicians received roughly 63,500 payments totaling $1.4 million associated with the four identified brand-name drugs. Of this, 95% of payments were for meals, with an average cost of less than $20. About 156,000 of those doctors wrote more than 20 prescriptions in at least one of the four categories.
Industry sponsored meals and junkets have been a major issue in India as well. Many doctors and pharmaceutical companies have come under the scanner for influencing prescriptions in return of such favours. However, in the absence of a stringent law and appropriate checks and balances, such freebies have continued .
Doctors and industry experts say free lunches and dinners are common in India too and unfortunately there is no cap or limit on the price of the meal. However, medical equipment regulations as well as some industry associations deter free meals outside a training programme or a medical conference.
According to the study, industry-sponsored meals account for roughly 80% of the total number of industry payments.
“Physicians should take safety, efficacy of drugs and patients interests first and foremost in their minds while prescribing any drug,” says Dr Anoop Misra, Chairman, Fortis C-DOC. According to Dr Misra, though things have improved in past few years because of increasing awareness about the issue, it requires more checks and balances to ensure patient’s interest.While the Medical Council of India has a statutory code regulating unethical practices by doctors, the department of pharmaceuticals – the administrative ministry for the drug-manufacturing industry – is also working to bring mandatory uniform code for marketing of medicines aimed at regulating unethical practices by drug makers.
“Unethical practices by doctors such as going on sponsored foreign tours with wife and family have come down in recent years by virtue of fear,” says DG Shah, secretary general, Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance.
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