A body of medical representatives on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the Central Board for Direct Taxes has accused makers of Dolo-650 tablet of distributing freebies worth Rs 1,000 crore to doctors as consideration for prescribing the tablet.
Appearing for Federation of Medical & Sales Representatives Association of India, senior advocate Sanjay Parikh submitted that DOLO had invested Rs 1,000 core in freebies to have its anti-fever drug prescribed to the patients.
The Supreme Court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition seeking directions to make pharmaceutical companies liable for giving freebies to doctors as incentive to prescribe their drugs.
The plea, filed by the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India sought direction to give statutory backing to the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP).
The petitioner also stressed on the example of the excessive sale and prescription of the drug Remdisivir during the Covid-19 pandemic as an example.
Justice DY Chandrachud who was heading the bench also comprising Justice AS Bopanna, said that it is a serious issue and even he was prescribed the same during Covid-19.
During the hearing, Justice Chandrachud said, "This is not music to my ears. I was also asked to have the same when I had COVID. This is a serious issue and matter."
The Central government represented by Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj was directed to file a reply within 10 days.
The PIL filed through advocate Aparna Bhat stated that the right to health is a part of the right to life and pharmaceutical companies adhering to ethical marketing practices is essential to that.
The petition said that there is presently no law or regulation that prohibits such practices in the absence of any statutory basis for the UCPMP, a voluntary set of rules for the sector.
The petitioner also stated that corruption in pharmaceutical marketing practices is unregulated in India despite being a signatory to the UN Convention against corruption.
This leads to a situation where the consumer pays a lot for branded medicines that are over-prescribed or irrationally prescribed by doctors in exchange for gifts, entertainment, hospitality and other advantages, it was contended.
The potency of such drugs and poisons pose a danger to the life and health of people even as doctors can be penalised for misconduct facilitated by the pharmaceutical companies that walk away scot-free.
The petitioner thus sought directions to the government to give the UCPMP statutory basis and make it effective by providing a "monitoring mechanism, transparency, accountability as well as consequences of violations".
During the interim, it was prayed that the top court itself issue such guidelines or make the UCPMP binding as it sees fit.