Spin Doctors At Work To Counter Med Council’s Googly On Endorsement
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28 August 2010
MCI Said IMA’s 2.25–cr Deal With Pepsico Violated Code Of Ethics
Slapped with a showcause notice by the Medical Council of India (MCI) for its endorsement of two food products in apparent violation of its own code of ethics, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) has its spin doctors working hard for explanations. Finding the Rs 2.25–crore endorsements of Pepsico products Tropicana juice and Quaker oats too bitter to swallow but too sweet to spit, the IMA top brass is working out an argument that its endorsement is not of the products, but of the public health message.
Questioned by some of its own members for the endorsement deal signed with Pepsico in 2008, the IMA had decided not to endorse any products – including a few health and hygiene products it endorses now in the future. While the doctors’ association has said it could not afford the compensation it would have to pay companies to terminate the contracts, and wanted the deal to be allowed to run its term till 2011, MCI has apparently gone by the book, serving the notice early this week.
"We are discussing the issue and will reply to the notice," IMA secretary general Dharam Prakash told TOI. What is the probable line of counter? "Well, Tropicana does not say it is endorsed by the IMA. The IMA has only approved the public health message on the pack," IMA secretary general Dr Dharam Prakash told TOI. Is it ethical on the part of the doctors’ association to take money for such an endorsement? "No comments."
Dr KV Babu, a central committee member of the IMA who filed the complaint against the endorsements, has much to comment. "The basic issue is whether IMA is receiving money for allowing its logo to be used on food products. As it did receive money, which is spent on travel allowances of its members, it is unethical," he said. On the IMA–endorsed public health message that ‘200ml of fruit juice equals one serving of five fruits a day,’ Dr Babu pointed out a study by the National Institute of Nutrition that found that consumption of more than 300ml of prepared fruit juice for a long time can lead to obesity and dwarfism in children below the age of five years.
In a similar case in 1988, the American Medical Association (AMA) had to pay $9.9 million (Rs 45 crore) to withdraw from a contract it signed with medical equipment manufacturer Sunbeam Corporation.