ETHICAL ISSUES IN THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY (BUSINESS) OF INDIA
The medical fraternity is one of the most ubiquitous professions. There is a need for medication and medical treatment, wherever humans in habit. This vital necessity of mankind can and generally is open to misuse by all involved in the business of healing.
Medical care is one aspect of a developed society. Most modern progressive countries have an excellent medical care system and one can say the development of a country can be gauged by the standard of the medical facilities available there. Developed countries are at the forefront of good medical care delivery and all developed countries have a system of care that is state funded or assisted. For a good system to operate there has to be a balance of freedom and control. If a free-for-all system is allowed to function, then it will certainly be exploited by unscrupulous persons to the detriment of others. Too much control will lead to stifling of initiative and impediments in research and development which is vital for the sector to operate.
The sales model of pharmaceutical companies has bought out the conscience of medical practitioners in India.
Unfortunately, in the underdeveloped world, due to the lack of resources, it is extremely difficult to maintain a good system. A poor country by itself has massive health care needs as due to poverty, there is often malnutrition, ignorance, widespread diseases and frequent epidemics. The governments of poor countries are constrained by funds to invest heavily in the sector and are compelled by circumstances to rely on the private sector to deliver the vital functions. Even managing and monitoring progress is an expensive affair and out of the bounds of most developing countries. This is the root cause of manipulation, cheating, and dishonesty which is the bane of most underdeveloped countries.
As underdeveloped countries do not deliver cradle to grave medical facilities, the poor are left to fend for themselves. Lax oversight and ignorance is the primary factor that causes a fissure in the nation’s health. Lack of ethics amongst the privileged viz. government officials, doctors, hospitals and the pharmaceutical companies then can cause a total breakdown in health care, which leads to severe problems for the general population.
India is a prime example of such a breakdown. Being a developing country, with a huge uneducated population, rife with poverty, India is a massive breeding ground for corruption. Since the problem starts from the top, the trickle down circumstances lead to the entire system feeding itself on corruption. Greed of the individual and corporations also enables the system to continue growing without any qualms or regrets.
Allow me present some examples of such practices.
Pharma companies are the suppliers of drugs. Most are multinationals, which are constantly in the process of developing new drugs. All new drugs are a result of years of research and before being passed by Food and Drug Administration or whatever, have to undergo trials. In poor countries, such trials are done without proper safeguards and warnings. Several cases have been known of adverse reaction with persons even dying. These patients being extremely poor and mostly uneducated are unaware that experimental drugs are being provided. In case of fatalities, the victim’s family is not aware of legal recourse. Moreover, they are not even aware of legal procedures, nor are they financially able to challenge multinationals in court. The tragedy of all of it is that there is no compensation paid to the victim’s family and the case is forgotten. The number of lives lost is incalculable.
Another huge problem in poor countries is fake medication. 65% of India lacks access to medication. Branded medication of course costs an arm and a leg. Big pharmas spend a lot on research and would need to get back the research...
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