off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Poor patients pay for Doctors
social get-togethers at
Five Star Hotels


Conference organizers, medical institutions and specialty associations, organizations continue to harass, coerce and even at times do not hesitate to make threatening calls to the pharmaceutical trade and industry to extract money for their meetings held at Five Star Hotels which are most often social get-together of doctors families with very little scientific contents. Pharma trade and industry finding themselves in a vulnerable position, is left with no option but to concede to their demands unwillingly and then pass on this to the poor patients in the shape of high cost of drugs and medicines. Cost of drugs is already beyond the reach of many, hence it has a direct bearing on compliance with therapy which most often is erratic. Since many patients cannot afford high cost of drugs, either they take it for few days and then discontinue or take medications off and on with the result that it fails to have the desired effect.

In most of the civilized countries of the world, clear guidelines exist on physician’s interaction and relationship with pharmaceutical trade and industry which are also implemented. Any one failing to abide by these guidelines and Code of Ethics, are not only debarred from organizing any such activity in future but the Pharma trade and industry is also debarred from extending them any financial assistance in future. In United Kingdom, the Royal Colleges and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry has clearly laid down guidelines on such issues which are strictly enforced. Spouses and children are not allowed at medical conferences, seminars and symposia and these academic activities are carefully monitored by various agencies. Any complaint if received, are thoroughly investigated and the conference organizers are issues show cause notices to explain their position before any action is taken.
In Pakistan too, the National Bioethics Committee (NBC) has formulated its Guidelines on Physicians interaction with Pharma Trade and Industry based on Code of Ethics adopted by various medical bodies, institutrions and organizations and this most comprehensive document covers every thing in detail including CME activities sponsored by the Pharma trade and industry as well as organization of medical conferences by various specialty organizations. However, unfortunately like in most other fields, these guidelines though got approved by the Government of Pakistan but they have not yet been implemented. The previous PPP Government, it looks was least interested and now what is the attitude of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) Government headed by Prime Minister Nawaz Shareef, only time will tell. However, if the past is any guide, it appears the Supreme Court of Pakistan will have to take a notice of these unethical practices and force the government to implement these NBC guidelines.
There is no harm in industry sponsoring such academic activities if they are organized at the medical institutions with working lunch and tea which will also reduce the cost of organizing such conferences drastically but what is happening is that organizing such conferences at Five Star Hotels, recreation resorts has become a business for some people in the medical profession. One just have to look at the various packages which these organizers offer to the Pharma trade and industry. Those who dare to object to such unreasonable demands are threatened and all coercive measures are used. Perhaps time has come to check these “Social Dacoits” as well.{jcomments on}