lawyers in India

Unethical Drug Promotion:  An Emerging Threat for the Indian Society

Written by: Jaysinh Jadeja
Human Rights Law
Legal Service
  • Consumers are largely unaware of how their drug consumption choices are being shaped by corporate motives for gargantuan profits. The overarching aim of corporate drug promotion, therefore, is to increase profits by raising consumer demand for pharmaceutical products.

    What Is Unethical Drug?

    The main objective of ethical criteria for medicinal drug promotion is to support and encourage the improvement of health care through the rational use of medicinal drugs. In this context the ethical criteria start from the validity of the drug itself: is the drug or combination of drugs rational

    According to a World Health Organization (WHO) survey, 35% of the world's spurious drugs are produced in India, which has a Rs. 4,000-crore fake drugs market, the largest in the world.

    Various Techniques And Tricks Of Unethical Drug Promotion

    Pharmaceutical companies choose to spend more on medical drug promotion rather than research and development because drug promotion is what earns them money.

    In India, Unethical Drug Promotion takes place in various forms such as promoting misleading or false claims about a drug, deliberately suppressing risks and side effects of a drug, providing financial incentives to doctors for prescribing a drug to consumers, using disease awareness campaigns for drug promotion rather than health promotion.

    Unfortunately in India, there is no check and balances on the pharmaceutical company as the incorrect drugs are given to the patients. Hence such marketing methods create an impression of legitimacy and independence and can leave consumers misinformed about the drugs they are buying.

    Unethical Drug Promotion: An Emerging Threat For The Indian Society:

    X India is the most vulnerable country in the context of unethical drug promotion:
    India is by and large a developing country having second largest population of the world. Thus the market size is considerable for medicines. In addition 36% of its population still suffering from illiteracy if we go by the last census report.

    A developing country faces lot of problems ranging from ignorance to the unassertiveness of the so-called literate bracket of the population. It is precisely this unassertiveness, which is used as a tool of exploitation by the pharmaceutical companies in the promotion of their product. The true cost of counterfeit drug sales is being passed on to consumers in the developing world, who often suffer severe illnesses and death from fake medicines.

    While discussions and debates are good to create and spread awareness about the dangers of spurious drugs, no concrete action plan has emerged to combat the menace on a national level.
    X Nexus between medical practitioners and pharmaceutical companies:
    A large quantity of fake medicines are being sold in the country because apart from registered medical practitioners, un- registered medical practitioners such as being trained in Unani, RMPs (Registered Medical Practitioners) play an active role in health care system of rural area and slum area, because they are the first contact in medical emergencies. Such medical practitioners have no professional qualification and no license to practice any system of medicine. In this situation pharmaceutical companies influence such medical practitioners for the purpose of their products.

    In addition many qualified physicians also prescribe the drugs to their patients on the basis of relation with the manufacturer.

    X Free distribution of samples of medicine and its Adverse Effect on Public Health:
    In India, samples of old drugs are regularly distributed free in large quantities. There is no regulation on the giving of such samples. Thus inappropriate promotion of such medicines leads health professionals and the public towards irrational use of drugs.

    In addition with reference to spurious medicines, there is no full proof system of recall of drugs in India. Therefore, once a medicine is released into the market; the distribution network is so widespread that it becomes nearly impossible to recall the defective drug.

    Conclusive Remarks:
    This problem of Unethical Drug Promotion can be countered to a great extent by preparation of treatment guidelines, conducting periodic prescription audits and continuing medical education.

    The government should frame comprehensive legislation to make all health care professionals accountable to the system and ensure that the drug companies comply with the National criteria for drug promotion as well as WHO Ethical Criteria for Medicinal Drug Promotion.

    It is essential for the health professional to become a more active participant in this process. Prescribing drugs is an important skill. It not only reflects the physician's knowledge of pharmacology but also his/her skill in diagnosis and attitude towards selecting the most appropriate cost effective treatment. Hence medicines prescribe by physicians should be continuously assessed and refined accordingly.

    As consumers it is true that we should be concerned about our rights but also we should give the same level of consideration towards our responsibilities as both rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. As consumers, you have to be more vigilant about the prevailing market situations, availability of goods and the quality and standards of goods.

    Consumer health must be placed above corporate profit. Hence let us intensify the national level crusade against the spread of Unethical Drug Promotion.

    The author can be reached at: [email protected] / Print This Article

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