The ethics of selling drugs are more complicated than, say, selling toothpaste. This is why consumer access to many pharmaceuticals is regulated – you cannot buy essential medicines over the counter that could be overused or abused. Of course, it goes without saying: pharmaceutical companies must market their products to beat the competition, make a profit and continue to produce medicines for patients. This usually involves offering pills to doctors, who also benefit from fresh information about drugs they might use to treat patients. But it’s when aggressive promotion crosses red lines that alarm bells need to ring, as it is now at India’s Supreme Court. The Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India (FMRAI) has taken a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to court, accusing the distributor of Dolo-650 – a widely prescribed formulation of paracetamol for covid – of bribing doctors with “gifts” worth ₹1,000 crore to recommend the tablet. The basis of the complaint is an investigation by the income tax department, which carried out searches of the offices of the drugmaker a month ago. He alleged that doctors had been bribed with “travel expenses, perquisites and gifts”. Micro Labs Ltd, which makes the painkiller, has denied the allegation and will have the opportunity to defend itself in court.
Pharmaceutical overselling clearly needs to be curbed0