The Indian Medical Association (IMA), a private association of allopathic doctors in the country, seems to have put itself in a tough spot by embroiling in unnecessary controversies. First, the doctors’ body picked up a fight with Yoga Guru Ramdev by attempting to bully and threaten him over his opinion on the limitations of the allopathic system of medicine.
Not only did IMA take potshots on Ayurveda and Yogic sciences by describing it as ‘quackery,’ reports emerged in the public domain revealing how office-bearers of the Indian Medical Associations were indulging in proselytizing activities during the pandemic. Several netizens exposed how Dr Johnrose Austin Jayalal, the president of the Indian Medical Association accusing him of using the Covid-19 pandemic to convert patients to Christianity.
Even as IMA continues to face flak for its overzealous actions against Baba Ramdev, fresh allegations have surfaced against IMA, accusing them of promoting commercial products of private companies in exchange for huge fees. Several brands have paid the ‘fees’ to IMA in exchange for the association’s “stamp of approval”, which these brands often use to market their products. The IMA’s commercial endorsements of products at the cost of health safety have become a major talking point in the country.
Preferring money over consumers’ heath, the Indian Medical Association had not only endorsed a range of products from fruit juice to an LED bulb but also had given a stamp of approval for these products saying these products had health benefits.
Here are some of the products endorsed by Indian Medical Association in exchange for funds:
1. PepsiCo’s Products
In 2008, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had endorsed PepsiCo’s Tropicana fruit juices and its breakfast cereal Quaker Oats, making it the world’s first medical association to endorse a food product.
Pepsico’s India affiliate had signed into a three-year deal with IMA, under which the association endorsed the Tropicana brand of fruit juices and the Quaker Oats brand. As per IMA, Pepsico’s ‘Tropicana’ and ‘Quaker Oats’ endorsement was a partnership for health.
Strangely, IMA has not revealed on what scientific basis did they certify the product or whether it was published in a scientific journal and the details regarding the study. Initially, IMA had said that the company did not pay money for the endorsement, instead, PepsiCo sponsored the association’s conferences and meetings for three years. Later, media reports said the IMA charged a whooping Rs 2.25 crore to endorse Pepsi Co’s products.
2. Crompton Greaves
The IMA had also ‘certified’ a so-called anti-bacterial LED bulb that claims to kill 85% germs and an indoor paint that claims to kill 99% infection-causing bacteria within two hours of exposure to the painted surface.
The IMA, which often pontificates about the scientific temper and terms the other indigenous system of medicines as ‘quackery’, has no answers regarding the scientific rationale behind their Crompton Greaves LED bulb endorsement.
The antiseptic soap – ‘Dettol’ also had the endorsement of the India Medical Association. In the many un-dated videos aired by Reckitt – the company that produces the antiseptic soap brand, one can see the stamp of approval by the Indian Medical Association, claiming that the particular product protects people from the infection 10 times more than other brands.
The IMA endorsement to the particular product meant that the particular product must have efficacy that is 10 times any other product. However, there is no scientific basis to the prove same.
The particular advertisement raises several questions regarding the dubiousness of the IMA, especially in times of pandemic. While IMA dismisses treatments promoted by other non-allopathic systems of medicine, it was granting approvals to the brand to use its name and spread misinformation among the public.
In 2015, the Indian Medical Association had caught up in a major scandal after it had endorsed Kent water purifiers. The IMA had given its approval for the water purifiers by stating that the association has ‘validated’ the products. In fact, IMA had signed an MoU with Kent for the ‘campaign’. Even though the resolution did not mention sponsorship, it said, “the campaign will also include the centenary conference (of the IMA) to be organized in November 2016 at New Delhi with the above subjects as the core issues”.
Several critics had pointed out the unethical practice of IMA, highlighting how the organisation had endorsed the rivals of Kent – ‘Eureka Forbes’ in another multi-crore deal.
In response to growing outcry against medical practitioners endorsing commercial products, the IMA had insisted that this was not an endorsement, but a ‘public campaign’ to educate ‘safe water prevents waterborne diseases.
5. Asian Paints:
Last year, an advertisement by a wall paint company prominently highlighted that their product was approved by the Indian Medical Association for providing protection from “viral transmissions” and reduce the number of harmful gases such as sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxide.
The advertisement went on to assert that the product would serve as a sanitiser for the house. Soon after it was aired on national television, many public health experts criticised IMA for approving the product when the world was battling the menace of the coronavirus outbreak.
In addition to the above brands, IMA has also endorsed products of Eureka Forbes, Dabur, Unilever and Procter & Gamble in exchange for huge financial deals.