The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the Centre to file its response within 10 days on a PIL seeking directions to make pharmaceutical companies liable for giving freebies to doctors as an incentive to prescribe their drugs.
A bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AS Bopanna was informed that makers of Dolo-650 mg tablet had invested Rs 1,000 crore in freebies to have its anti-fever drug prescribed to patients.
The Central Board for Direct Taxes has accused makers of the Dolo-650 tablet of distributing freebies worth Rs 1,000 crore to doctors as consideration for prescribing the tablet, said senior advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives Association of India.
Justice DY Chandrachud remarked that it is a "serious issue" and said that even he has been prescribed the same tablet during COVID.
"This is not music to my ears. I was also asked to have the same when I had COVID. This is a serious issue and matter," Justice Chandrachud said.
Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for the Centre, said that affidavit is almost ready and it will be filed.
The court then asked the Central government to file a reply within 10 days on the plea alleging unethical marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies in their dealings with healthcare professionals resulting in the prescription of excessive or irrational drugs and a push for high-cost or over-priced brands.
Earlier, the bench had issued notice to the Centre on the petition but it has not filed a response yet.
The plea claimed that there are abundant examples that show how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector endangers positive health outcomes and puts patients' health at risk.
There are abundant examples that show how corruption in the pharmaceutical sector endangers positive health outcomes and puts patients' health at risk, the petition has said.
The petition added that as violations of this kind have become a recurring phenomenon and are progressively becoming more pervasive, a Statutory Code of ethical marketing for the pharmaceutical industry, with penal consequences, be established to curb such practices for the enforcement of the Fundamental Right to Health of the people of India.
The petition also said that due to the voluntary nature of the existing Code, unethical practices continue to increase and have also surfaced during the COVID-19 times.
Hence, the petition urged to issue direction to give the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices a statutory basis and make it effective by providing a monitoring mechanism, transparency, accountability as well as consequences of violations.
The petition has urged to direct that till an effective law is enacted as prayed above, this court may lay down the guidelines to control and regulate unethical marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies or in the alternative make the existing Code binding with such modifications/additions as the court may find proper and reasonable, which should be followed by all the authorities/courts under Articles 32, 141, 142 and 144 of the Constitution.