May turn out to be the biggest doctor-pharma nexus expose…
Noose Tightens on 300 Doctors over Bribe Charge
New Delhi, January 28: Action is imminent against 300 doctors who have been found guilty of accepting hefty bribe in return for prescribing drugs of an Ahmadabad based pharmaceutical company.
They have already faced summons by ethics committee of Medical Council of India (MCI), the apex medical regulatory body. According to reliable MCI sources, scrutiny of their responses has also been completed. The anonymous letter sent to Department of Pharmaceuticals alleging misconduct proved a veritable ‘charge sheet’. Surprisingly, the letter complaining graft contained all the details of hefty bribe doled out to them. It contained name of each doctor with his or her address and the bribe given to him or her clearly stated.
The summoning started in November last year. Dr. K.K. Aggarwal, member of the ethics committee (currently Secretary General of IMA, apex doctors’ body in the country) said, ‘letters had been sent to doctors for appearing before the committee to allow them to present their side. They had been supplied with a proforma. I am of the view that if they are found guilty they must be punished because some black sheep cannot be allowed to muddy the profession. And if they are innocent, we must also find out the forces out to malign medical profession.’
According to the sources in the MCI, initially doctors in the dragnet pleaded innocence and the Pharmaceutical Company in question also denied the bribe charge but facts proved otherwise. They have been found guilty of graft and IT department has already moved to take action against them for tax evasion. MCI too has decided to proceed against erring doctors.
According to the complaint, the Ahmadabad-based pharmaceutical company has been paying doctors hefty money as well as gifting them cars and flats and sponsoring family foreign trips in return for prescribing its medicines sidelining cheaper alternatives from more credible companies.
The letter alleged that leveraging nexus with these doctors, the Pharma Company’s fortune had a phenomenal rise to Rs. 400 crore from a scratch in just five years. The letter alleged that company’s brands were priced 15% to 30% higher than those of well-established companies like Cipla, Ranbaxy, Sun, Aristo, Alkem, Zydus and Cadila.
MCI ethics committee summoning erring doctors had told them to appear with their ITR, bank statement for the last three years, passport in original as well as a set of photocopies of the said documents. The letter had also warned that in case they failed to appear on the fixed date and time, the ethics committee would proceed for ex parte decision against them on the basis of available records in MCI office. They had been asked to respond in writing.
The anonymous complaint was first received by the department of pharmaceuticals. Since it involved such a large number of doctors its vigilance department sent it to MCI to examine it in detail. Anonymous complaints are usually disregarded but this one was taken up seriously because there seemed substance in it at first reading.