[Two articles from Indian press – copied as fair use]
Doctors’ freebies to be taxed
Unnikrishnan, TNN Aug 7, 2012, 03.56AM IST
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MUMBAI: The income-tax (I-T) department will tax the amount pharmaceutical and allied health sector industries spend on freebies for medical practitioners and their professional associations. Those who accept the freebies will also be taxed. The decision follows an amendment to Medical Council of India regulations banning doctors and their associations from accepting freebies. The freebies include money, travel facilities and hospitality extended by pharma firms and makers of medical devices and ‘nutraceuticals’.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes August 1 circular says the department has come across such instances and a senior pharma company official admitted companies do it to advance sales. He said a company was planning to take around 80 doctors from across the country on a full-expenses paid foreign trip for a ‘seminar’. The I-T department grants an exemption to money spent on business promotion. It accepts firms’ claims and allows deduction. An official said, “Pharma firms cannot claim the benefit as regulations prohibit it. If we can prove the company extended freebies to doctors, they have to pay taxes. Those who receive freebies will also have to pay a tax on the gift’s value or money spent on it. If a doctor gets a fridge, its market value will be treated as income.”
Chandra Mohan Gulati, a drug regulatory expert, said it was a great first step but “let it not be the last”. He felt doctors should be told to mention details of their ‘gift’. In 2009, MCI had set guidelines for doctors vis-a-vis pharmaceutical companies.
Ranga Iyer, who used to head Wyeth and the OPPI (Organization of Pharmaceutical Producers of India), said, “We must look at the IT Act changes in isolation. The need is for ethical marketing practices for pharmaceutical firms and we support any such move.” Dr Arun Bal of the Association for Consumers’ Action on Safety & Health an NGO that works for patients’ rights, said, “This follows attempts by MCI and the government to bring about self-regulation among doctors and the industry.’“
(With inputs from Malathy Iyer)
Pharma firms funding foreign trips for doctors
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Bhopal/New Delhi: As the government has called a high-level meeting on Wednesday to draw up a code of conduct for doctors and pharmaceutical companies, CNN-IBN has accessed documents that show that pharmaceutical companies fund foreign trips for doctors and their families in return for pushing their products. The documents also show that the doctors prescribe drugs without proper clinical trials.
The documents consisting travel details of a group of 11 doctors and their families from Madhya Pradesh, who went on a seven-day long trip to London and Scotland between May 24 and May 31 , apart from the travel agency Zenith Hospitality, clearly mentions INTAS – a pharmaceutical company based in Ahmedabad which manufactures psychiatric drugs. All the 11 doctors, who went on the trip, are neurologists.
“It’s a clear cut violation of medical ethics and MCI rules. The doctors are prohibited from accepting gifts in cash or kind from any pharma companies,” says Editor of Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS) C M Gulati.
One of the 11 doctors who responded to the report has denied that a pharmaceutical company funded his family trip. “The doctors directly contacted the Zenith Tours and Travels and according to the packages suggested by them, we made payments through cheques. I don’t think INTAS funded our trip in any way,” said neurologist from Jabalpur, Dr Harsh Saxena. But the receipt shown by Dr
Saxena is dated 2nd June, even though the trip ended on May 31.
The pharmaceutical company INTAS in its response to CNN IBN has also denied sponsoring the trip. But when asked why the name of INTAS was printed on the itinerary the company said, “The travel agent has wrongly used the INTAS trademark as a project code name. They have apologised for this mistake by stating that this was a project code meant for internal usage and for duration of the tour. INTAS reserves the right to take legal action against the travel agent.”
The travel agency has also said that INTAS didn’t fund the trip. “Pharma company was not involved in any way. No, they did not suggest the package. The passenger themselves got in touch for the travel through our marketing activities,” said Zenith Travels ad Tours.
“While you don’t expect the culprits to admit openly, this is a classic example of the doctor pharmaceutical nexus in the country,” said Dr Gulati.
A new code of conduct for pharma companies is in the offing. It aims to end the widespread practice of pharmaceutical companies giving gifts and incentives to doctors to prescribe their medicines. The Department of Pharmaceuticals will on Wednesday meet major drug manufacturers to discuss making the unethical drug marketing code compulsory. At present the uniform drug marketing code of conduct is voluntary. The meeting will also be attended by officials from the Medical Council of India and the Income Tax Department.
Dr Gopal Dabade