The news of Indian Medical Association having diluted the ‘advisory’ to its branches from banning sponsorships to avoid taking sponsorships from the Pharma industry is focus of discussion in Media today. It may be clarified that IMA is a voluntary organization which has no authority to issue any diktat to its members directly or through its affliate branches as it has no statutory jurisdiction on them. Yet, why a stricture was issued in first place and what compelled the office bearers to dilute it is not a matter of discussion today.
But the move itself has certainly raised a very pertinent question – whether CMEs should be Pharma sponsored or purely academic?
Medical council of India in its summary guidelines of Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) (Amendment) Regulations, 2009 – Part-I is very clear about prohibiting Medical professionals from receiving Gifts, Travel facilities, Hospitality and Cash or monetary grants from pharmaceutical and allied healthcare industry or endorsing any drug or product of the industry publicly. But receiving sponsorships for organizing CME’s, Seminars, Symposias or conferences is a grey area as MCI is silent on this issue.
The general public perception is that after all pharma companies are not actually charity organizations so why would they sponsor medical events without expecting anything in return. Pharma companies are frequently under the microscope due to a variety of circumstances unique to this industry. Because it is very difficult to ascertain real objective of Company- sponsored event i.e. whether a sponsored event or engagement is related to scientific exchange or is promotional/ commercial in nature.
Yet there is also a view that to say big no to Pharma companies with respect to sponsorship of medical events to counter general public perception is also not entirely correct .Medical practitioners need to update their knowledge on day to day basis for which it is essential to attend CME’s, Seminars, Symposias or conferences and industry-funded CME is more likely to happen in the absence of availability of any Govt. funded CME’s. Moreover, In the absence of provision of any structured training or opportunity to dabble with emerging technologies by the Government, stopping organization of Pharma funded CME’s may condemn us to archaical practices.
The need of the hour is to strike a balance and accept sponsorship for organizing CME’s but without compromising with its academic content. The policy of allowing doctors to receive sponsorship for attending conferences also needs to be reviewed as most of the hospitals/institutions in India do not have any provisions to send doctors to National and International conferences .Therefore ,it becomes economically not viable especially for faculty members or Junior Doctors to attend the same without accepting sponsorship from Pharma companies. Under the circumstances the doctors may be allowed to accept sponsorships for attending conferences from pharmaceutical companies with a cap limiting their number to 2-3 in one year.