OPPI launches ethics code

OPPI launches ethics code

Sushmi DeyNew Delhi

In an attempt to promote drugs in an ethical manner, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) launched its revised code of pharmaceutical marketing practices. The new code launched by the organisation is the updated version of the code which was revised by International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). The new code will come into effect from January 2007.

No pampering!

The new code lays down clear guidelines to restrain pharmaceutical companies from influencing doctor’s prescription by offering doctors and their families travel packages, gifts, shopping and entertainment expenses for promotion of their respective medicines.

“To secure a positive image of the industry, it is important to set high standards with proper use of our products and principles related to sponsorships, hospitality, scientific information, gifts must be modest,” says Ranjit Shahani, President, OPPI.

The key elements of the new code include more restrictive provisions on travel, gift and scientific events, and the establishment of both a code complaint procedure and a code compliance network gathering code experts from all over the world. According to Dr Ajit Dangi, Director General, OPPI, the equation towards improving industry’s worldwide reputation is through commitment and dedication to enhance the ethical standards of the pharmaceutical industry. “It is important to give restrictive guidelines on such provisions to secure the best reputation possible for the industry,” he added. The code also restricts pharmacos from exaggerating the properties of their drugs. It directs pharmacos that promotion of medicines should encourage their appropriate use and ensure independence of healthcare professionals and maximum benefit to patients.

Sudarshan Jain, Member, OPPI said, “The industry is facing challenges over ethics, safety and transparency. In such a situation, the code aims at establishing good promotional standards with a focus on doctors’ and patients’ needs, build confidence in the employees and build trust and credibility with customers.”

While promoting their products, companies should avoid speaking about other companies’ product

Dangi poined that the provisions of the code are in line with international standards. “The code seeks to achieve a balance between the needs of patients, health professionals and the public, bearing in mind the political and social environment within which the industry operates and relevant statutory controls,” said Dangi.

Dr M Venkateswarlu, Drugs Controller General (India) presided over the function as the guest of honour and launched the book—’OPPI Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices’. “Pharmaceutical industry is supposed to be a self regulated industry. Sampling is one area which always concerns me,” said Venkateswarlu. He added that though it is easy to talk about ethics but it is difficult to practice and pharmacos need to internalise such ethics. He also advised that pharmacos that while promoting their products, they should restrict information to their own products and avoid speaking about other companies’ product.

Yes says minister

Later in a press release issued by the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, The Union Minister Of Chemicals and Fertilizers and Steel has welcomed the decision of OPPI to ban freebies to doctors as part of the code. He said that this move will help in reducing the prices of essential drugs and would benefit the common man. The minister also expressed the hope that other associations of drug manufacturers would follow suit.

OPPI has developed the code based on the IFPMA code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices. While IFPMA, an NGO, represents national industry associations and research based pharmaceutical, biotech and vaccine companies from both developed and developing countries, OPPI is an active member of IFPMA, Geneva. In the future OPPI plans to make this code a part of Drugs and Cosmetics Act (D&C Act). “Our ultimate objective is to request the Ministry of Health to make this code as a part of D&C Act as is done in case of GMP which has now become Schedule ‘M’ in the D&C Act and is mandatory,” declared Dangi.