Tuesday August 20, 2019

Medicine and Corruption: Are Pharma firms running ‘free health camps’ to increase sales?

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The image is for representation only. Photo Credit: www.fahnpwa.org

‘I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism……….I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability…….I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.’– Hippocratic Oath

A report published by the BMJ journal on Wednesday (i.e. December 2, 2015), has again exposed the unethical practices that are rampant in the medical field.

Medicine is a noble and respectable profession. People look up to doctors as saviors. The poor and the underprivileged consider them as equivalent to their Gods. This high expectation has naturally got translated into a high responsibility that the doctors and other medical professionals are expected to shoulder.

This is reflected in the ‘Hippocratic Oath’, which the practitioners of Western medicine are supposed to adhere by. The significance of this oath is in the fact that it portrays the medical profession, not as business or employment, but as a service towards humanity and expects the doctors to be totally dedicated and selfless.

Yet, in practice, one encounters a completely different scenario, which is filled with greed and corruption which has left no place for ethics. The doctors, the medical institutes, the diagnostic centers, the pharmaceutical companies and all other stakeholders responsible for safe health services are involved in one or the other kind of malpractices.

There have been reports about how medical colleges are knee deep in corruption. The frauds committed by these colleges range from hiring doctors to write exams to hiring fake patients during a government inspection. The nexus between doctors and diagnostic centers is another area of malpractice. Several doctors have been found to prescribe unnecessary tests in return for huge commissions.

Now, this new BMJ report has successfully exposed the unethical nexus that exist between the doctors and the Pharmaceutical companies. The report explains how the Pharma companies are using free health camps as tools for increasing their sales and market penetration.

It reveals that several Indian drug firms, as well as Indian arms of several Multinational Pharma companies like Abbott, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Roche, and Sanofi are involved in these activities.

The report sheds light on two things: One, Pharmaceutical sales representatives are involved in screening and testing of patients in the health camps. Two, the doctors are prescribing medicines from those particular companies in return for testing services.

The sales representatives are not medical professionals who have medical training or licensing to conduct various tests, be it blood, urine, or any other tests. These screenings by unlicensed and non-medical people may result in wrong diagnosis or over-diagnosis, which may in turn cause harm to the patients.

These practices are not only unauthorized and illegal, they are also completely unethical. The report reveals that many Pharma companies are doing these free health camps as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, yet the real motive appears to be money, not service.

But, Pharma companies could not have indulged in these activities, if they did not have the active support of certain sections of doctors. Doctors are not supposed to prescribe any specific brand to their patients in return for any benefits from those companies. This is against the Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines. Further, it is highly unethical as well because, they are not only putting the patients’ lives at risk, they are also increasing the economic burden of the patients by prescribing a high-cost drug of a particular company even when a low-cost alternative from another company is available.

It is high time that the government took notice of the rampant corruption and illegal practices prevalent in the medical field and create mechanisms to root out this malaise that has reduced medicine from being a noble service to a money making industry.

Next Story

Transfusion Medicine: Blood Banks, Donation FAQs, and Benefits

Doctors at the Department of Transfusion Medicine, Nayati Healthcare, share insights on Blood Donation

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Transfusion, Medicine, Blood
Transfusion medicine deals with the study of blood and its associated components as a part of R&D and treatment in the field of Hematology. Pixabay

Transfusion medicine deals with the study of blood and its associated components as a part of R&D and treatment in the field of Hematology. Unlike many other medical procedures, transfusion is a multi-level process. After a person is screened for the ability to donate, his blood is tested for abnormalities and stored safely so that, it can be used by any patient depending upon his blood group and unit requirement. Since critical cases require multiple blood units at short notice, blood banks are set up to help patients at any given point of time. 

Blood Banks 

Blood banks store different types of blood at regular intervals as they factor in the emergency requirement of their hospital or any nearby clinic. Each unit of the donated blood is divided into at least three parts: Plasma, Red Blood Cells (RBCs), and Platelets. These parts can be stored for up to one year, 42 days, and five days respectively. 

Transfusion, Medicine, Blood
After a person is screened for the ability to donate, his blood is tested for abnormalities and stored safely.

People often hesitate to donate blood due to the common myth that their blood is not stored properly and hence, goes to waste. This is due to lack of information. Platelets are wasted in some of the cases, due to short storage life. However, RBCs are instrumental in saving countless lives during the period of storage. Besides, plasma is used to manufacture medicines that usually have to be imported in India. Such optimal utilization helps the hospitals to reduce the cost for patients themselves and enables them to handle critical cases easily. 

Blood banks can effectively serve their purpose with the corresponding participation of young citizens. Dr Naveen Agnihotri, Sr. Consultant & HOD – Blood Bank & Transfusion Medicine Nayati Healthcare, states that due to minimal sensitization and lack of exposure, many people living in tier-2, tier-3 cities are not aware of how, when, or who can donate blood. And considering the rising number of accidents and critical medical cases in the country, citizens need to step forward, get their queries resolved, and contribute towards this noble cause. 


Donation FAQs

Q) Who can donate blood?

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Anybody between the age group of 18 to 60 is eligible for donating blood. However, doctors perform specific medical checkups to identify if the individual is fit to donate blood. While height is not a major consideration in the process, the weight of the donor must be above 45 kg.

A person who is more than 60 years but less than 65 years of age, can also donate blood provided he/ she has donated at least once earlier.

Q) How much blood is extracted during a donation?

Every individual has average 3.5-5 liters of blood in the body out of which 350 to 450 ml is extracted based on his/her weight and fitness level. The volume of extracted blood is recovered within 24 hours.

Transfusion, Medicine, Blood
Unlike many other medical procedures, transfusion is a multi-level process. Pixabay

Q) Is there any adverse effect on my health after donation?

No, there is no adverse effect on the donor’s health as the human body has a big reserve and a fast regeneration process. Doctors at Nayati Healthcare recommend the donors to consume good amount of fluids within 24 hours of the donation. Every donor has to wait for at least three months before donating blood again. 

Benefits of blood donation 

Apart from making the difference between the life and death of a patient, listed below are the other major benefits of blood donation:

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  • Awareness about one’s fitness
  • Reveals hidden/prolonged medical conditions such as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C that are usually not diagnosed in routine blood tests
  • Blood rejuvenation, which enhances psychological satisfaction and happiness
  • The feeling of helping another human being to live a healthy life boosts the donor’s morale

Key contributions by Nayati Healthcare

According to a 2017 survey conducted by the Government of India, Uttar Pradesh ranks the lowest in terms of blood collection and voluntary donation. To improve these conditions, Nayati Healthcare is the first hospital in Uttar Pradesh (outside Delhi NCR) to have a NABH accredited blood bank, which serves as a testament to its quality. Nayati Healthcare is also capable of performing transplant operations that require blood plasma exchange. Furthermore, Nayati’s Blood Bank regularly provides nearly 5 to 10 percent blood, including plasma and platelets to nearby clinics and charitable hospitals at discounted rates and without any requirement for donation by the relatives. 

Also, Nayati Healthcare played a crucial role in saving the life of a patient at AIIMS, Jodhpur by transporting a unit of rare Bombay blood group to the hospital. 

Due to Nayati Healthcare’s location near National Highway, the 24×7 blood bank is one of the most vital components in the treatment of trauma patients. According to a doctor at the hospital, nearly 70-80 units of blood are used in trauma cases every month. Apart from this, countless lives are saved in cases involving pregnancy emergencies, PPH or ruptured uterus is easily treated within the recommended time frame. In this way, Nayati Blood Bank is playing a crucial role in saving lives of road traffic accident victims, mothers and newborn babies in the region.

Nayati Blood Bank Department has started training doctors from June 2019 in the field of Transfusion Medicine by offering DNB degree (a degree equivalent to MD). Nayati is one of the 7 centers in the country to offer DNB in Transfusion Medicine, to cater to the shortage of trained manpower in the field.

As transfusion medicines continue to play an important role in the treatment of patients, hospitals such as Nayati Healthcare continue to increase the awareness about the noble deed of blood donation via regular outdoor donation camps, providing life-saving blood and treatment as well as increasing the trained manpower in the hinterland of the country.