Pharma companies giving incentives to doctors for prescribing their medicines should be held accountable, contended a petition being heard by the Supreme Court. As example, the petition cited Dolo- 650 — a tablet prescribed for fever — and said its manufacturers have invested ₹ 1000 crore in freebies. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna called it a “serious matter” and asked the Centre to file its response within 10 days.
“This is not music to ears. Even I was asked to have same medicine when I had Covid. This is a serious matter,” said Justice DY Chandrachud.
The petition was filed by the Federation of Medical & Sales Representatives Association of India.
Appearing for the Federation, senior advocate Sanjay Parikh said, “Dolo invested over 1000 crore in freebies to doctors so they would promote the drug”.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes or CBDT, had made the allegation after conducting raids at 36 premises of the Bengaluru-based Micro Labs Limited across nine states. Accusing the manufacturer of unethical practices, the CBDT said they have detected tax evasion to the tune of ₹ 300 crore.
The petition said such practices not only result in over-use of drugs, it can also jeopardise the health of the patients; such corruption also pushes high-priced or irrational drugs in the market.
The petition said due to the voluntary nature of the existing rules, unethical practices by pharma companies are flourishing and had even surfaced during the Covid pandemic.
The petition asked the top court to ensure that the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices be made effective by providing a monitoring mechanism, transparency and accountability.
The bench had issued notice to the Centre earlier. Today, appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj said the response is almost ready.
The matter will be heard again by the top court on September 29.