Sunday, June 24, 2007

Public asked to become medicine watchdog

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Indonesian Doctors Association and Indonesian Pharmaceutical Association (GP Farmasi) have asked the public to monitor and provide information on ethical violations in the promotion of medicines.

The two associations made the request in a memorandum signed Monday in an attempt to ensure the availability of affordable medicines for the public.

Both will supervise the formation of a special team to process the information hoped to be provided by the public.

"We hope that with this ethical agreement, there will be no more accusations that doctors prescribe medicines that favor certain pharmaceutical companies that have paid them to do so," Dr. Hardi Yusa, chairman of the Indonesian Doctors Council (KKI), told reporters on the sidelines of the signing.

The memorandum lays out four points of agreement banning excessive financial provisions for doctors by pharmaceutical companies, including the providing of scholarships for doctors to pursue further education.

It also prohibits the pharmaceutical industry from providing doctors with gifts, incentives or any donations that could oblige the doctors to prescribe or recommend particular medicines in return.

One of the points read: "A doctor is banned from recommending that a patient buy a certain medicine for a commission from the pharmaceutical company."

GP Farmasi chairman Anthony Ch Sunarjo said the body would only be able to initiate administrative punishment, such as warning or canceling membership, to discipline it members.

He called on the Health Ministry and KKI to actively supervise and control pharmaceutical companies and doctors who fail to obey the terms of the memorandum.

"This is why we want the ministry of health and KKI to also sign this agreement, because they have some authority over the doctors and the pharmaceutical industry in Indonesia," Anthony said.

"The aim of this agreement is to accommodate various health problems. This is only an initial step and it should accelerate the application of the national social insurance system. Only through the application of the system, will Indonesia's health problems be resolved," he added.

He said pharmaceutical companies usually spend up to 60 percent of their profits on promoting new products in the first year, while taking the product directly to doctors costs much less.

Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said the government, the pharmaceutical industry and professional organizations, such as the Indonesian Doctors Association, were responsible for the availability, equitable distribution and affordability of essential medicines.

"Medicine should not be treated only as an economic commodity and should not be excessively and misleadingly promoted. The government and all health stakeholders are responsible for ensuring that patients can receive affordable treatment," Supari said in a written speech read by Richard Panjaitan, director general of pharmaceuticals and medical devices at the Health Ministry.

The minister said she hoped the agreement could create a favorable environment and healthy competition in Indonesia's pharmaceutical industry to allow it to grow in line with the advance in science and technology. (02)

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