The country’s apex body of paediatricians — the Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) — has been fighting fire from within over alleged unethical practices for a few days now. It reportedly accepted funds amounting to Rs26.76 lakh from six pharmaceutical companies for its committee on immunisation in 2011-12.
In 2009, the Medical Council of India (MCI) had notified a code of conduct for doctors and their associations, clearly stating that medical practitioners should not accept any cash or monetary grant from the pharmaceutical industry.
The IAP’s decision to accept funds from drug or vaccine manufacturing firms, which were followed by the issuing of guidelines by its committee on immunisation from time to time, without declaring any conflict of interest, has triggered a heated debate in the medical fraternity.
An editorial in journal Monthly Index of Medical Specialities, India, recently drew the medical fraternity’s attention to this suspected unethical practice. It used the IAP’s annual accounts statements to calculate that it received funds of Rs2.5 crore from at least nine drug or vaccine manufacturing companies in 2011-12. It went on to ask the MCI to investigate this alleged violation of its notification.
IAP president Dr Vijay Yewale, however, claims that the organisation has done no wrong.
“The IAP is not a profit-making organisation. It is dependent on funding from the industry to sustain its programmes. Even the Unicef and the WHO receive funds from the pharmaceutical industry. This doesn’t mean that the IAP and these organisations are biased [towards the companies’ products].”
Asked how the IAP’s immunisation committee could stay neutral while reviewing vaccines after receiving funds, he clarifies, “The guidelines are based on scientific evidence as well as the efficacy of the vaccine, and are unbiased.”
The organisation, though, is facing flak from within. An editorial published in its journal, Indian Paediatrics, a few months ago discussed the symbiotic relationship between the IAP and the pharmaceutical industry.
Dr Yewale rubbishes this claim. “Every organisation suffers from conflict of interests. We have the freedom of expression. But it is easy to say things than prove them.”