New guidelines for doctors open to changes: MCI chief

Medical Council of India president Ketan Desai today said that the new Medical Council of India (MCI) regulations on the conduct of medical professionals in the country were open to modification, and should be seen as the ''backbone of a code of ethics in-the-making''.

The recently issued regulations are aimed at breaking the perceived close ties between practitioners and pharmaceutical companies. Among other things, they call for medical professionals to avoid accepting gifts or perks like free holidays from drug manufacturers, and for practitioners to prescribe drugs by their generic names rather than brand names.

Speaking at a seminar in New Delhi on 'Medical ethics conundrum – the road ahead, Desai said, ''In the interests of the country it is the duty of all the stakeholders to make sure that the regulations are implemented in letter and spirit. As the apex body responsible for regulating the conduct of medical professionals in the country, MCI has issued these regulations to make sure that the ideals of this profession are upheld.''

He added, ''Having said that, it is also important that the conduct of pharmaceutical companies be regulated. Only then can the regulations be implemented successfully. I have written to the government to issue similar regulations for the industry. I want to clarify here that and we would welcome suggestions to make the guidelines more realistic and implementable, provided patient interests are kept paramount.''

Organised by HEAL, a non-profit organisation spreading awareness on health-related issues, in association with solicitos firm FoxMandal Little, the seminar brought to the fore a range of issues that are expected to affect, directly or indirectly, a strict implementation of the MCI regulations. The prevailing sentiment was that for effective implementation of the MCI directives, it is vital for all stakeholders to understand clearly the issues involved.

Ajay Kumar, member of the medical ethics committee of the World Medical Association, dwelt at length on the reasons that prompted MCI to come out with the regulations. He said that it was quite possible to improve on the regulations either by adding more clauses or by deleting some, provided this facilitates the practical implementation of the code of conduct.