No more lavish lifestyle for doctors, NMC issues new guidelines for doctors

Breaching these regulations could result in the suspension of a doctor’s license for a period of three months.

New Delhi: The landscape of medical conferences complete with luxurious hotels, extravagant dinners, and cultural festivities, may undergo significant changes due to recent regulations from the National Medical Commission. These rules aim to curtail doctor participation in events sponsored, directly or indirectly, by pharmaceutical companies or the allied health sector. Breaching these guidelines could lead to a three-month suspension of a doctor’s licence.

The new professional conduct guidelines, particularly Section 35, not only prevent doctors from participating in sponsored seminars, workshops, or conferences but also restrict their families from receiving consultancy fees or honorariums from pharmaceutical companies. Moreover, these regulations encompass “commercial healthcare establishments, medical device companies, or corporate hospitals,” preventing doctors from accepting payments under any pretext.

In the past, companies used various tactics to compensate doctors, such as contracting them for lectures, workshops, or advisory roles. Doctors would declare these earnings, and corporate hospitals employed similar strategies. The new rules appear to have closed these loopholes.

Under the new regulations, doctors can only receive remuneration from commercial entities in the form of salaries and employment benefits, strengthening conflict of interest controls.

Previously, in January 2010, the Medical Council of India had forbidden doctors from accepting gifts from pharmaceutical companies. However, these rules were later softened, allowing gifts valued up to Rs. 1,000 and easing travel restrictions for doctors attending conferences, seminars, or workshops. Doctors often secure travel funding by serving as faculty members instead of delegates.

It remains to be seen whether these stringent regulations will face future revisions, as occurred with previous rules.

The updated guidelines underscore the need for doctors to be vigilant about potential conflicts of interest, particularly in clinical drug trials. They emphasise the importance of public disclosure of these relationships in compliance with existing laws.

These regulations are seen as an improvement over previous guidelines that deterred doctors from receiving questionable incentives or bribes from pharmaceutical and commercial entities. However, some critics argue that the rules lack detail, urging more comprehensive provisions. Malini Aisola from the All-India Drug Action Network suggests that the regulations should provide more comprehensive insights into how various aspects will be handled, including the disclosure of funding sources, the intent behind the funding, and platforms for public accessibility of this information, possibly through a dedicated website or portal.

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