Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] Pharmaceutical Marketing Malpractices

Some pharmaceutical companies give expensive gifts, distribute cash and pay for extravagant pleasure trips of doctors willing to push their products. What’s alarming is that there is no law to punish those guilty of the unethical practice.
By IT's Video Summary Team
December 20, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Reasons behind the malpractices
  • Issue of Generic Medicines
  • Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical marketing practices
  • MCI’s Code of Ethics for Medical Professionals
  • Suggestions
  • Conclusion

[RSTV The Big Picture] Pharmaceutical Marketing Malpractices

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A recent report by a public health group on pharmaceutical marketing practices has revealed widespread use of bribes and inducement by Pharma companies to the doctors in order to increase the sale of their products.

For doctors, the Medical Council of India has a code of ethics which bars them from accepting any gifts, cash, travel facilities or hospitality from Pharma companies.

However, for the pharmaceutical companies there is a voluntary code known as Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical marketing practices (UCPMP) which is not very effective mechanism to check the prevailing malpractices.

Reasons behind the malpractices

  • Recently, National Medical Commission (NMC) superseded the Indian Medical Council (IMC). This transition phase is critical for the practices prevailing in present.
  • Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical marketing practices (UCPMP) is a voluntary code and Medical Council of India’s (MCI’s) code of ethics is not legally enforceable.
  • Medical representatives are salespeople employed by pharmaceutical companies to persuade doctors to prescribe their drugs to patients. This is the primary issue regarding the malpractices done by doctors.
  • Due to lack of medical education of the medical products, medical representative penetrates into the process of promoting a specific pharma company. Lack of Self-regulation, training of ethics, regulation of hospital and continued medical education to the doctor leads to this issue.
  • The wrong knowledge and wrong prescribing of medicines by a doctor, with the influences of medical representative, is not required. This (promoting a specific medicine) also leads to the Anti-microbial resistant.

Issue of Generic Medicines

  • There are other issues like branded medicines prescription given by the doctors, over pricing of drugs and unethical practices in the economics of pharmaceuticals companies.
  • Medicines have to be prescribe in a generic name, not by a brand name. Giving Prescription in generic medicine will cut down the unethical practices by pharma industry and the different associations in the field of medical.
  • Major reason for unacceptability of generic medicines in India is the low quality regarding the medicines. It is not that the generic medicines are of lower quality because it is cheap and branded drugs are precious because of it is costly.

Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical marketing practices (UCPMP)

  • UCPMP Code is a voluntary code issued by the Department of Pharmaceuticals (under the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers) relating to marketing practices for Indian Pharmaceutical Companies and as well medical devices industry. UCMP is the part of Indian Medical Council act 1956.
  • At present, the UCPMP Code is applicable on Pharmaceutical Companies, Medical Representatives, Agents of Pharmaceutical Companies such as Distributors, Wholesalers, Retailers, and Pharmaceutical Manufacturer’s Associations.
  • The UCPMP Code provides that no gifts, pecuniary advantages or benefits in kind may be supplied, offered or promised, to persons qualified to prescribe or supply drugs, by a pharmaceutical company or any of its agents.
  • The UCPMP Code does not quantify any allowable limits or any penalty/ punishment based on the quantification of grants.

MCI’s Code of Ethics for Medical Professionals

  • The Medical Council of India (MCI) via amendment to the “Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulation 2002” has brought out the code of conduct for doctors and professional association of doctors.
  • According to the rules, a medical practitioner may carry out, participate in or work in research projects funded by pharmaceutical and allied health care industries, but has to ensure that the particular project has due permission from the competent authorities.
  • The practitioner also has to ensure that the research project gets clearance from an institutional ethics body.
  • Even though the intention behind framing the code of conduct appears good, the greater issue is the enforcement of these guidelines which seems an uphill task. MCI will also have to indicate very clearly the mechanisms for implementing the code.


  • The Department of Pharmaceuticals of government of India have to issue an order to make the UCPMP Code mandatory for the drug manufacturing industry. Order should cover doctors, chemists, hospitals, and states. Further, there should be inclusion of the stringent penalty provisions in the UCPMP Code.
  • Doctors have to maintain the good practices in pharmaceuticals. Doctor should be a noble person and his property should be only to treat patient and not financial greed.
  • MCI have to enforce ethics code on his own members and throughout the medical fields in India.
  • To prevent doctor from promoting a specific branded medicine, every doctor has to attend continued medical education
  • The law is necessary to contempt the black sheep of the medical field and pharmaceuticals department of government of India has to deal with that.


To curb the bad intention of pharma companies to lure doctors to sell its branded drugs, in the current scenario, the bid to make generic medicines more accessible and appealing to consumers looks promising.

However, At the end of the day, quality has to be the keyword when it comes to medicines – generic or not. Hence, Indian pharma industry have to provide generics without compromising on quality.

Besides this, there is greater need for a harmonized drug regulation for overall growth of pharmaceutical sector.

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