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Drug firms, salesmen on collision course

Joe C Mathew  |  New Delhi 

Medical representatives not workmen: Industry body
Indian drug makers are headed for a showdown with the very people they depend on to sell their produce "" the medical representatives.
Days after medical representatives said their employers were flouting the government's drug-pricing norms, the pharmaceutical industry has decided to clip their wings.
These want them to be no longer recognised as "workmen," a classification that gives them the right to form trade unions.
The Indian Drugs Manufacturers Association (IDMA), a representative body of over 650 medium and small drug makers, has approached Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes to de-classify medical representatives as workmen under the Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976.
"The Sales Promotion Employees Act needs to do away with the medical representatives' classification as workmen in view of its negative effects on flexibility of business operations," said IDMA Secretary General Dara Patel, adding: "Considering medical representatives as workmen is an anachronism. The world over, a medical representative, by virtue of his job function, is considered part of the management team of the company."
The Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI), which comprises about 100 research-based multinational and Indian pharmaceutical companies, is supporting the IDMA move.
This comes after the left-leaning Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Associations of India (FMRAI) called for a centralised working rule to prevent drug firms from 'exploiting' them.
FMRAI has a membership of over 50,000 "" a fourth of the industry's total sales force. It is also known for its stand favouring the promotion of public sector drug units for ensuring quality medicines at affordable prices.
The federation had approached the central government seeking the introduction of an eight-hour working schedule and uniformity in working conditions across the industry through legislation on central working rules for medical salesmen.
It wanted the government to fix the number of daily visits a medical representative should make to the clinicians. It also wanted the to end the practice of making them solely responsible for achieving sales targets.
Incidentally, the medical representatives in Europe, organised under Federisf, are also reportedly on a war path with the drug makers of that region.
The Federisf has asked the government to cut the prices paid to drug makers (in other words, reduce the prices of medicines) of those that have significantly cut the sales force and have gone for outsourcing the jobs.

First Published: Wed, December 26 2007. 00:00 IST