Pharma Companies: Who will Break Pharma-physician Nexus in Pakistan?


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Islamabad: Every summer hundreds of physicians and surgeons visited the Northern areas of Pakistan, some in small groups while many along with their families, stayed at five-star hotels and enjoyed the scenic beauty of the country while several others also embarked on a pilgrimage to the holy cities of Makkah and Madina to perform Hajj but ironically, all these recreational and religious trips have been financed by different pharmaceutical companies of the country, The News has learned.

“Several of my friends, consultant cardiologists, and gastroenterologists are in the Northern areas alone or with their families; all at the expense of different pharmaceutical companies. I have commitments here in Karachi so a pharmaceutical company has arranged for a week-long recreational trip for my spouse and kids at a family resort on a newly-constructed Motorway.

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After seeing my patients in the night, I join my family at the picnic resort”, said Dr. Ahmed (name changed on the request), a consultant physician, while disclosing how pharmaceutical companies bribe health experts in Pakistan.

But these recreational trips within the country and or abroad are not the only favors given by pharmaceutical companies that are used to influence physicians and surgeons as some local and multinational companies even pay cash to some of their favorites, who provide them extra business or their ‘favors’ result in huge financial benefits for these pharma companies, insiders claim.

“Earlier this year, the head of a medical institution went abroad along with his family at his own expense. When he returned, he asked the travel agent to generate six invoices for his family trip abroad. These invoices were provided to six different pharmaceutical companies and they all reimbursed him the amount incurred on the trip. Of course, it was pre-decided that he would be compensated for the foreign travel along with his family, and in return, their medicines and supplies would be purchased, irrespective of their quality and standard”, Dr. Irfan, (named changed) who works on a managerial post at the medical institution, disclosed.

And what a patient gets in return for the favors given to a doctor by the pharmaceutical company is a heavily-load prescription where several unnecessary drugs, including a combination of painkillers, antibiotics, multivitamins are suggested which often result in serious health consequences instead of providing any relief.

“Daily I see patients who come to me with severe adverse effects of the drugs that are unnecessarily prescribed to them by the physicians. This practice is getting insane”, Dr. Ahmed informed.

Authorities say ‘bribes or favors’ given to doctors by the pharmaceutical industry is an open secret and a well-established fact but deplore that due to these illegal practices, poor patients are suffering as they are not only paying huge sums of money for their well-being but instead of getting treatment and cure, irrational use of drugs is resulting in serious health consequences for them.

“In exchange for favors from pharmaceutical companies, doctors over-prescribe drugs to innocent patients and I call it poly-pharmacy where a patient is prescribed unnecessary painkillers, multivitamins, and antibiotics where they are not needed. These medicines are poisons and should be given in milligrams as per the specific need of a patient but when they are given irrationally, just to meet the target of pharmaceutical companies, they result in serious health consequences for the patients”, Former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan Dr. Muhammad Aslam said.

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