Shekhar Gupta’s The Print had recently published a report claiming that in a meeting with India’s top pharmaceutical companies, PM Modi had asked them “not to bribe doctors with women, foreign trips and gadgets”.
The Print had cited “government sources” behind their claim, without naming them. The report, citing an unnamed government official, had even claimed, “The issue of unethical use of marketing tactics has been escalated to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) which, in turn, made calls to some top drug-makers and fixed a meeting with the PM.”
The Print’s report had conveniently mentioned that they had written emails to the offices of the pharma companies and also made calls and sent text messages to the PMO for a statement on this issue but they had received no replies.
Following The Print’s report, The Indian Medical Association shot off a scathing statement warning the Prime Minister of India to “either prove his claim or apologise” for his alleged statement that The Print had claimed he made during the meeting with the heads of Pharma companies.
The IMA letter stated, “IMA seeks clarification from the office of the PM if such a meeting ever happened and if so the statement is authentic. IMA has noted that the PMO has not denied the report”.
Going further, the IMA also mocked the PM for not being able to prove the allegations, spectacularly ignoring the irony that it is them who are making unfounded allegations over a fake news report credited to unnamed ‘sources’.
“The IMA, however, is sceptical about the government being able to prove these allegations. If the surmise of the Prime Minister is based on unverified information it is only appropriate that he apologises to the doctors of the country”, preached the statement.
Not stopping at ordering the PM to ‘prove or apologise’ over an unfounded claim, the IMA also went ahead to preach that the government is doing this to divert attention from the failure of Ayushman Bharat, which, they claimed, is a ‘non-starter.’
The Print then went ahead and published another report on the IMA’s statement. The IMA’s ‘bold’ order to the PM, asking him to “prove or apologise” was published by Congress mouthpiece National Herald and The Telegraph too.
However, the reality was that the Prime Minister’s meeting with the heads of pharmaceutical companies was held to discuss the future roadmap for growth in the healthcare industry and there was no discussion on any marketing practices, as claimed by these reports.
The meeting was held on January 1 and the heads of several pharma and healthcare companies, namely Dr Reddy’s, Piramal Group, Cadila Healthcare, Sun Pharma, Wockhardt, Torrent, and Appolo Hospitals were present.
The Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA), an industry body representing many pharma and healthcare companies has issued a statement regarding the meeting with the PM.
In the statement, the IPA has stated that the focus of the discussion was to promote research and development, build an innovation ecosystem, improve access to high-quality medicine and strengthen the global competitiveness of the industry.
The statement clarified that there was no discussion regarding marketing practices, clarifying that the claims made by The Print’s report were false.
Even if one keeps the IPA statement aside, it will be preposterous to claim that the Prime Minister of the country would convene the heads and senior representatives of India’s largest pharma and healthcare companies and they will discuss issues like what pharma representatives try to bribe doctors with.
In addition, the Delhi Medical Association (DMA), as per a report in Times Of India, has condemned the IMA for demanding that the PM must ‘prove charges or apologise’.
The DMA has slammed the IMA for ‘unnecessarily’ criticising the Prime Minister. “The statement issued by the Association of Pharmaceutical Companies has clarified that no such discussion took place at all in the meeting. It is very deplorable that few IMA office bearers for their political compulsions are carrying out a defamatory campaign against our honourable PM which is against the national interest.”
The DMA statement also lauded the government for working to reduce the prices of various drugs and stents and bringing flagship schemes likes the Ayushman Bharat Yojna.
The Print, in another report yesterday, mentioned the IPA’s statement. However, they added that they had tried to reach out to the IPA’s secretary-general on 10 January and he had denied having information about any meeting. It claimed further citing ‘sources’ that the PM had intervened after the DoP had warned pharma companies about bringing statutory provisions for pharma marketing on December 23. It did not make any clarifications on their “bribing doctors with women, gadgets and foreign trip” claim.