Punjab Medical Council probes doctors for accepting alleged payments from drug companies

Punjab Doctors 2810Chandigarh (ISJ) ? Punjab Medical Council (PMC) issued notices to 10 doctors for allegedly receiving funds directly from pharma and healthcare companies, violating Medical Council of India?s (MCI) code of ethics.

British Medical Journal (BMJ) reports, PMC has given time to the doctors till today (October 28) to respond its show cause notices. PMC?s President G.S. Grewal told BMJ, the doctors took payments through their personal bank accounts from pharmaceutical companies, violating the MCI code of ethics, which forbids them from accepting funds directly from such companies.�

Payments for services such as clinical research must be made through institutions. If the council is not satisfied with their responses, it can start proceedings which could result in penalties such as the suspension of their licenses.�

Grewal explained the doctors were identified because they had been previously questioned for other ethical violations, and consequently their tax records were scrutinized.

Dr. Kulwant Singh, a cardiologist at the Kulwant Heart Centre in Ludhiana, whose hospital organised a continuing medical education conference with MSD Pharmaceuticals, for which he received the money said, ?It is an honorarium. It is within the rules of the MCI.?

The PMC lists Singh as receiving money from eight companies, and he said he has undertaken clinical research and market research for the companies, and education programmes for patients on treatments.

However, George Thomas, an orthopaedic surgeon from Chennai and a former editor of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, explained, MCI rules prohibit doctors from being paid by pharmaceutical companies for conducting or attending such conferences.

?PMC has only given them a show cause notice right now, and they have a right to reply. On the basis of reply, some judicial mechanism needs to take place. Only at the end of it can a finding be made over whether they have actually violated the code or not,? Thomas added.

Documents held by PMC show, payments were made into the account of an individual named Kulwant Singh. However, Singh responded he was not breaking any rules because he did not accept the payments in his individual capacity, but on behalf of Kulwant Heart Surgery, as its proprietor.

Overall, 21 companies were named in the show cause notice. These include foreign pharmaceutical companies Merck Limited, MSD Pharmaceuticals Private Limited, Sanofi India Limited, Bayer Zydus Pharma, and Novartis Healthcare Private Limited.

Of the companies The BMJ contacted, nine responded to the allegations. Bayer Zydus Pharma and Glenmark Pharmaceuticals confirmed that they had made the payments. However, they denied, their actions violated the MCI's code of ethics.

Glenmark did not specify what the payment was for, and Bayer Zydus Pharma said it had paid the doctor named in the show cause notice to conduct a clinical study on safety and efficacy of tablets for type 2 diabetes.

Novartis India, Sanofi India and Merck India did not confirm the payments, but said all were legitimate. A Merck India spokesperson said the company was running an internal enquiry into the matter. MSD, Lupin, Sun Pharmaceuticals, Intas Pharmaceuticals and Eris Lifesciences did not respond to The BMJ?s questions.

Three cord-blood banking companies and two insurance third-party administrators (TPA) were also named. Cryobanks International India and Life Cell International said they pay doctors for harvesting stem cells from the umbilical cords of babies during delivery.

Vaneet Kaur, a gynaecologist who received notice from PMC for receiving money from Cryobanks, confirmed that she took money for collecting cord blood, but added her actions were not unethical because she had not recommended the procedure to parents.

Source: The BMJ

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