DRAP fails to check corruption, unethical marketing practices by Pharma trade & industry

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 DRAP fails to check corruption,
unethical marketing practices
by Pharma trade & industry

Billions of rupees are spent annually on bribing the
medical profession through different ways to
influence their prescribing practices

Conference organizers also start making profits on
hotel rooms where participants are accommodated

From our correspondent

ISLAMABAD: Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) which is one of the regulatory bodies and monitoring agencies to check corruption and unethical marketing practices by the pharma trade and industry has miserably failed to perform its duties. Billions of rupees are spent by pharmaceutical companies who believe and practice unethical marketing practices to bribe members of the medical profession through different ways to influence their prescribing practices and increase their sales. The burden is eventually passed on to the poor patients in the form of costly services and high prices of drugs and medicines.

DRAP authorities, it appears are not aware of the fact that there exists Guidelines by the National Bioethics Committee (NBC) formed by the Government of Pakistan on Physicians Interaction with the Pharma Trade and Industry. These guidelines were finalized by a 6-memebr committee headed by Prof.Farhat Moazam and approved by the Federal Government as well as Pakistan Medical & Dental Council many years ago but so far they are not being implemented. Perhaps DRAP administration is waiting a call from the Supreme Court of Pakistan to summon them and then order them to implement these guidelines.

Pharmaceutical industry all over the world sponsors Continuing Medical Education (CME) programmes for the healthcare professionals including organizing medical conferences, seminars and symposia. There are clearly laid down guidelines covering all these issues, what is ethical and what is unethical and what the industry is not supposed to do. All this is strictly monitored all over the civilized world by the respective government regulatory bodies but in Pakistan no such mechanism exists so far. The number of participants at the time of lunch, dinner and tea at these conferences are much more than the actual participants which is evident from the fact that very little attendance is most often seen in the scientific sessions. On the other hand the conference organizers also charge the industry for getting the delegates registered.

More recently a new trend is visible whereby the organizers take over the hotels in the city where the conference is being held and then either directly or through some middle man charge almost double the price of hotel rooms which is all paid by the pharmaceutical trade and industry. Some representatives of the industry say that they get the same rooms at corporate rates which are almost 50-60% of the normal hotel rates but when the same rooms are booked through the conference organizers they charge it almost double the price. A hotel room which will cost them Rs. 12,000/- per day is charged at almost Rs. 25,000/- per day by the event organizers. Usually the hotel management gives some concession in rates when the conference is organized. The authorities need to look into this racket which is no less than robbery. The conference organizers should have nothing to do with the accommodation rates. Let them select the hotels and let the conference participants and those who sponsor them decided about the tariff. As regards providing other facilities like making audiovisual arrangements, transport, Tea, lunch and dinner, the cost should be decided by the pharmaceutical companies sponsoring these events and the catering firms, service providers while the conference organizers can facilitate this. The pharma industry should pay for the accommodation to the hotel directly instead of a middle man or the organizers to check corruption which is rampant. Similarly the sponsors should pay to the catering firms directly. This will eliminate the chances of any corruption. However, unfortunately in the absence of any monitoring, accountability by the regulatory bodies in Pakistan, some corrupt elements within the medical profession have made it a business to make money from such events. Little do they realize that it all has eventually to be paid by the poor patients many of whom cannot afford the high cost of medical treatment, high cost of drugs and medicines? Failure of compliance with therapy is one of the important causes of failed treatment.

If the medical profession failed to set its house in order and the DRAP, PM&DC as well as other government agencies also fail to check all these unethical practices, then Supreme Court of Pakistan, it is hoped will eventually have to intervene just like it did in the case of Stents and other interventional cardiology procedures. Government should also encourage holding these conferences, all academic activities at the medical institutions rather than Five Star Hotels and the funds thus saved should be properly audited and spent on the improvement of facilities at the host medical institution.

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