A chemists association from Maharashtra has alleged that medical representatives are offering cash to distributors and wholesalers to push sales.
In a letter to all the marketing heads of pharmaceutical companies earlier in the week, the Maharashtra State Chemists and Druggists Association (MSCDA) has demand an end to this malpractice. The association's letter does not name any company and does not specify amounts being offered to distributors.
The letter brings to fore unethical marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies and comes as the proposed government rules on marketing practices hangs fire. In its draft code in 2014 the department of pharmaceuticals had barred companies from giving cash, gifts or any other pecuniary benefits to distributors and retailers. However the government is yet to finalise rules and penalties for its violation.
MSCDA president Hukamraj Mehta said company representatives are offering money to distributors to meet their sales targets. “ We request you to investigate the matter on top priority and issue necessary directions to the concerned managers and medical representatives to refrain from such unethical and unprincipled trade practices,” Mehta said in his letter.
Industry sources point out that cash offers to distributors is a common practice and chemists association protests may have been triggered by loss of business. “ Sales representatives are targeting distributors outside their zones to achieve targets and this leads to loss of business for some,” an industry expert said.
“Not all companies are indulging in cash offers. It all depends upon the culture of organisation. There are instances of companies taking action against staff too who indulge in such practices,” he said.
Kanchana TK, director general of Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) said their member companies have not received MSCDA letter. The OPPI has already issued a code for its members which advocates ethical business practices and bars members from giving cash and gifts to healthcare professionals. The organisation said it is in process of revising the code and making it more stringent. “ We have been championing for the much needed uniform code for pharmaceutical marketing practices that will set out basic ethical standards of responsible healthcare towards patients in the country,” she added.