Protocol for doctors to deal with pharma companies, MRs

M3 India Newsdesk Jan 24, 2020

As doctors' rapport with pharmaceutical companies has come under question recently, it is imperative for a medical practitioner to adhere to guidelines governing their equation with the companies and medical representatives (MRs). Here is a quick refresher of the medical council's code of conduct for doctors.



Recently, the Bhilwara chapter of the Indian Medical Association in Rajasthan mandated that MRs leave their mobile phones and other electronic gadgets outside when going to meet a healthcare professional on behalf of a pharmaceutical company.

While the Indian Medical Council oversees the regulation for doctors, the Uniform Code of Pharmaceuticals Marketing Practices underlines the regulations for the pharma companies and the medical representatives.

Section 6.8 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations defines the code of conduct for doctors. Punishment for a violation ranges from a formal censure for receiving expensive gifts to the removal of name from the state or central medical register for grave offences. 

While interacting with the pharmaceutical and allied health sector industry, a medical practitioner is supposed to adhere to the following protocol:

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

2. Travel facilities: A medical practitioner shall not accept any travel-related benefits or assistance inside the country or outside, including rail, air, ship, cruise tickets and paid vacations from any pharmaceutical or allied healthcare industry or their representatives for self and family members, for vacation or for attending conferences, seminars, and workshops as a delegate.

3. Hospitality: A medical practitioner shall not accept individually, any type of hospitality, like hotel accommodation for self and family members under any pretext.

4. 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 or study 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.

5. Medical research: A medical practitioner may carry out, participate in, work in research projects funded by pharmaceutical and allied healthcare industries. A medical practitioner is obliged to know that the fulfilment of the following items (a) to (g) will be an imperative for undertaking any research assignment/project funded by industry–for being proper and ethical. Thus, in accepting such a position a medical practitioner shall:

  1. Ensure that the particular research proposal(s) has the due permission from the competent concerned authorities.
  2. Ensure that such a research project(s) has the clearance of national/state/institutional ethics committees/bodies.
  3. Ensure that it fulfils all the legal requirements prescribed for medical research.
  4. Ensure that the source and amount of funding is publicly disclosed at the beginning itself.
  5. Ensure that proper care and facilities are provided to human volunteers if they are necessary for the research project(s).
  6. Ensure that undue animal experiments are not done, and when these are necessary they are done in a scientific and a humane way.
  7. Ensure that while accepting such an assignment, a medical practitioner shall have the freedom to publish the results of the research in the greater interest of the society by inserting such a clause in the Memorandum of Understanding or any other document/agreement for any such assignment.

6. Maintaining professional autonomy: In dealing with the pharmaceutical and allied healthcare industry, a medical practitioner shall always ensure that there shall never be any compromise either with his/her own professional autonomy and/or with the autonomy and freedom of the medical institution.

7. Affiliation: A medical practitioner may work for pharmaceutical and allied healthcare industries in advisory capacities, as consultants, as researchers, as treating doctors or in any other professional capacity. In doing so, a medical practitioner shall always:

  1. Ensure that his professional integrity and freedom are maintained.
  2. Ensure that patients’ interests are not compromised in any way.
  3. Ensure that such affiliations are within the law.
  4. Ensure that such affiliations/employment are fully transparent and disclosed.

8. Endorsement: A medical practitioner shall not endorse any drug or product of the industry publically. Any study conducted on the efficacy or otherwise of such products shall be presented to and/or through appropriate scientific bodies or published in appropriate scientific journals in a proper way.


Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

The author, Ankush Bandyopadhyay, is a reporter with, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.

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