Unfortunately in India there is no single regulatory agency, which is accountable to take care of the healthcare needs of the patients and their well being.
The pharmaceutical industry of India, in general, has expressed the need to self-regulate itself effectively, in the absence of any regulatory compulsion. However, many activists groups and NGOs feel that the bottom-line in this scenario is the demonstrable transparency by the pharmaceutical companies in their dealings with various customer groups, especially the physicians.
The brief scenario in the US:
Like in India, a public debate has started since quite some time in the US, as well, on allegedly huge sum of money being paid by the pharmaceutical companies to the physicians on various items including free drug samples, professional advice, speaking in seminars, reimbursement of their traveling and entertainment expenses etc. All these, many believe, are done to adversely influence their rational prescription decisions for the patients.
As the financial relationship between the pharmaceutical companies and the physicians are getting increasingly dragged into a raging public debate, it appears that there is a good possibility of making disclosure of all such payments made to the physicians by the pharmaceutical companies mandatory by the Obama administration, as a part of the new US healthcare reform process.
As I said in my earlier article, Eli Lilly, the first pharmaceutical company to announce such disclosure voluntarily around September 2008 has already uploaded its physician payment details on its website.
US pharma major Merck has also followed suit and so are Pfizer and GSK. However, the effective date of their first disclosure details is not yet known.
In the meantime, Cleveland Clinic and the medical school of the University of Pennsylvania, US are in the process of disclosing details of payments made by the Pharmaceutical companies to their research personnel and the physicians. Similarly in the U.K the Royal College of Physicians has been recently reported to have called for a ban on gifts to the physicians and support to medical training, by the pharmaceutical companies.
Currently in the US, both in Senate and the House of Congress two draft bills on ‘The Physician Payment Sunshine Act’ are pending. It appears quite likely that Obama Administration, with the help of this new law, will make the disclosure of payments to physicians by the pharmaceutical companies mandatory, along with its much discussed new healthcare reform process.
If President Obama’s administration takes such regulatory steps will Dr. Manmohan Singh government prefer to stay much behind?
I shall try to explore that emerging scenario in my next blog post.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.