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Docs take foreign trip on pharma companies' money. PMO cracks down

Shirish Khare | Updated on: 10 July 2016, 20:05 IST

A foreign junket undertaken at the expense of pharmaceutical companies could prove costly for 30 doctors in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

These doctors had flouted Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines, when they went for a trip to Italy.

Now, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has written a letter to the chief secretaries of the two states, asking them to initiate action against the errant doctors.

According to the complaints filed against the doctors, pharmaceutical companies had spent approximately Rs 2 lakh to send each of them to Italy.

Demands for probe

The issue has also reverberated in the political corridors. On 6 May, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia had written a letter to Sharad Jain, MoS Health in Shivraj Singh Chouhan's government, demanding action against the accused doctors.

Madhya Pradesh health minister Narottam Mishra had recently sought a detailed report from the officials of his department in this regard. The report has already been submitted. It has recommended the constitution of a high-level committee to probe the allegations.

MCI's reaction

The MCI has issued notices to these doctors, seeking details of their property, bank accounts and foreign travels. These doctors face the cancellation of their registrations if found guilty.

"Most of the doctors accused of going on foreign tour as a favour from pharmaceutical companies are practising in Indore. We will investigate the matter and take prompt action as per the provisions of the law," assured MCI's Bhopal registrar Subodh Mishra.

The Chhattisgarh unit of the MCI has asked two of these doctors to provide details of their income tax returns, as well as all the documents related to their Italy visit. The notices issued five months ago had given a deadline of one week. But, it is yet to receive a reply.

"Doctors are barred from accepting any favours from pharmaceutical companies. We are collecting information on this matter. However, the doctors are not forthcoming in providing the details," says MCI's Raipur registrar, Srikant Rajimwale.

Rules and novelty of action

The MCI has clear rules prohibiting government and private doctors from accepting money or tickets for railway, air or ship journeys from pharma companies. The rule applies equally to their family members.

MCI guidelines also state that no doctor shall receive money from companies for any kind of domestic or foreign journey. In fact, the guidelines ban doctors from enjoying any favour from the pharmaceutical companies or their representatives.

But, not many doctors adhere to these guidelines. This is the reason the PMO's instructions for strict action have come as a surprise to the medical fraternity of MP and Chhattisgarh.

The state health ministries, which usually overlook such violations, have been forced to act after the PMO's letter. Sources claim the evidence against the doctors would be gathered within 15 days and stringent action will follow.

Fixing accountability in this case after the unprecedented seriousness from PMO is expected to send a signal to doctors all across the country.

Translated by Deepak Sharma, edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 10 July 2016, 20:05 IST
Shirish Khare @catch_hindi

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