New York, Oct. 17 (Reuters): Abbott Laboratories Inc has instructed its sales representatives in India not to give gifts to doctors, a practice that has been used as a bargaining chip by companies wanting a piece of the country’s burgeoning healthcare market.
According to an internal email dated October 11 from Sudarshan Jain, managing director of Abbott Healthcare Pvt. Ltd, the gift-giving has been temporarily suspended.
“Only Abbott-approved clinical/scientific literature may be distributed to current and potential customers,” said the email, reviewed by Reuters yesterday. “No brand reminders or therapy reminders in your possession should be given to any current and potential customer and no further brand reminders or therapy reminders should be ordered.”
Accepting gifts or travel arrangements from drug-makers is against the law in India, but enforcement is inconsistent.
Public health experts say gift-giving leads to dangerous over-prescribing and unnecessary use of expensive medications when cheaper versions are available.
A sales representative with Abbott Healthcare said therapy reminders were low-value items such as pens, whereas brand reminders refer to electrical appliances and other pricier merchandise.
A Reuters investigation in September showed Abbott’s Indian subsidiaries plied doctors with scanners, vacuum cleaners, coffee makers and similar items in return for prescribing the company’s drugs to patients. Sales representatives were shown lists of gifts in strategy guides issued by the company.