New Delhi: The local chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has asked doctors in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara region to follow certain guidelines in interactions with medical representatives to ensure “privacy of conversations”.
The warning comes just days after PM Narendra Modi reportedly met representatives of top pharmaceutical companies and warned them against bribing doctors with women, foreign trips and gadgets.
In a notice issued Sunday, IMA Bhilwara said medical representatives, who visit doctors to promote drugs on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, should not be allowed to bring phones and other gadgets inside chambers.
A second notice issued Monday reiterated the Medical Council of India (MCI) directive against accepting “gifts, cheques, foreign country trip vouchers, any type of credit cards…”
Both are signed by IMA Bhilwara president Dr Dushyant Sharma and its secretary Dr Mahesh Kumar Garg.
Speaking to ThePrint, Sharma referred to “recorded conversations” and said the notice had followed “several local cases of misuse of electronic gadgets”.
“The move is completely disconnected with the government’s latest stance… The second notice is also generally circulated… to remind doctors of the guidelines of the Medical Council of India,” he added.
IMA national secretary general R.V. Asokan reiterated the Bhilwara chapter’s concern. “Everyone has the right to protect their privacy. It is not only about medical professionals asking for the privacy of conversations. In fact, in any profession, privacy is required.”
He, however, said that the IMA was not considering applying the move at the national level.
In the notice, titled “Regarding misuse of electronic gadgets by pharma companies”, the IMA has asked doctors to protect the “mutual privacy” between medical representatives and doctors.
“Please tell them (medical representatives) to switch off their mobile and put the electronic gadgets outside the doctor’s chamber during the call or visit,” the notice, marked to all doctors in the Bhilwara region, reads.
Medical representatives, it added, should be allowed to carry “only written documentation methodology and folder to avoid any inconvenience at all levels”.
“Nowadays pharma management’s [sic] are using electronic gadgets for detailing their products which are having a tracking system through which they record the conversation in the doctor’s chamber causing undue interference in mutual privacy and also misuse at higher levels,” it says.
The second notice asks doctors not to share “your PAN number with pharma company’s delegates” and lists other articles that should not be accepted, such as credit cards and foreign trip vouchers.
Sharma of IMA Bhilwara said pharmaceutical companies “intrude into the privacy of doctors, which is unethical”.
“It is completely on doctor’s discretion whether to prescribe or not to prescribe the medicine,” he added. “Medical representatives have no role. Hence, recording of conversation is a matter of concern and needs to be stopped.”
The PM’s meeting with pharmaceutical companies reportedly followed a report published by NGO Support for Advocacy and Training to Health (SATHI), which suggested that medical representatives bribe doctors.