Should Doctors Accept Gifts?
It is time there is debate on the issue
WHITE COAT BY DR. MUSHTAQ CHALKOO
The question that haunts my conscience since the day I joined the medical profession, is whether a doctor should accept a gift from a pharmaceutical company through a medical representative.
They say gifting each other is a blessing that brings two individuals or parties close to each other. However, herein, the word gift needs to be defined. While searching the word in oxford dictionary, I came across the meaning that it is anything given willingly to someone without payment. Invariably a doctor sitting in OPD does receive a call on his cell-phone. Most of the times it is a medical representative wishing him good morning and passing a reminder of his products. If the MR is a qualified graduate in drugs, he knows how to grab the attention of doctor, otherwise poor guy gets out a large file and the pages are flipped over rapidly in staccato-rhythm learned by rote without any impact.
If you dig deeper, you might discover that the gentleman doesn’t understand what extra cellular space is, but would still try to show that his company’s anti biotic is way ahead of that of the rival companies. You nod your head wondering when the droning liturgy will come to the end. You hear without listening and without actually registering the content of the speech. You make all the right noises and nod your head. The MR usually ends saying so doctor please support our products, they are safe, economical. Is there anything that we can help you out with? Anything at all? Just let us know. Here is my card. Thank you for your cooperation.
In addition to the free mini- lecture you might get a pamphlet regarding the information of the products or a free four tablet sample of the medicine. Sometimes you may receive the height of the bribery, a ball point pen with a company logo and the name of the drug on it. Hope the MRs do not take me wrong. Not to digress, but doctors are in the news again and again for all the wrong reasons. What is it with us that our integrity is at stake? We have been hoisted onto pedestals so high that we can be spotted a mile off.
Anything remotely resembling fun looks bad on us. With all of the finger-pointing that has taken place towards pharmaceutical companies, the industry has become a scapegoat in the media. It is understood that the prime duty of the pharma companies is to sell drugs and not to educate the public. It is a fact that they do often sponsor continuing education programs for health care professionals. These activities provide health care professionals needed opportunity to continue to develop and update their clinical skills and knowledge. I feel that some education is better than no education. Now every conference we attend in the future might be fraught with the feeling of being watched.
Doctors in general do not endorse products unless they genuinely believe in the effectiveness of a drug. The fact goes that the pharmas manufacture medicine under license from the government and market a drug only after getting the green signal from the government drug controller. The bottom line is that patients need medicine and pharmas thrive on that. When accepted collectively as an institution and alumni, the gift gets a nod like the funds openly given to political parties and charities. They do acquire murky tints when they come individually and doctors cannot expect to be treated as exceptions and escape that scrutiny. The question that now boils at the end of this write-up is clear to all and is open to debate.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Oct 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 19 Oct 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 20 Oct 2011 00:00:00 IST
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