Senate to probe alleged pharma-doc ‘pyramiding scheme’

/ 09:31 PM April 24, 2024

Senate to probe alleged pharma-doc ‘pyramiding scheme'

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said on Wednesday that whistleblowers will detail the alleged “pyramiding scheme” of a pharmaceutical firm involving doctors at the Senate hearing scheduled for next week.


Ejercito, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, stated that he became aware of the alleged scheme of Bell-Kenz Pharma Inc. two or three months ago. An investigation was conducted, expressing alarm over the alleged involvement of the pharmaceutical company in enticing doctors with “luxurious” gifts or incentives to prescribe their products to patients.

“This has to be investigated by the Senate. I have already prepared a draft resolution that will be filed as we resume session on Monday (April 29),” Ejercito said, adding that the report is alarming if indeed there is a violation of ethical standards by doctors due to conflicts of interest.
Most of the prescribed medicines, according to Ejercito, are for hypertension and diabetes.


“Quality drugs, most are for hypertension, diabetes, and others. The only problem is that there seems to be a conflict of interest and breach of ethical standards because the whistleblowers’ complaint is about doctors prescribing drugs… medicines that they themselves introduce, then they own the company,” Ejercito explained.

Health expert and advocate Dr. Tony Leachon earlier called on the Senate and Congress to look into the issue as whistleblowers dubbed it “worse than Pharmally,” involving a pharmaceutical company allegedly offering financial incentives to doctors to prescribe or recommend their drugs.

During a Facebook live session on Saturday, Dr. Leachon also urged the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) to investigate the matter, as it goes against the physician’s code of medical ethics and Professional Regulation Commission due to a “conflict of interest.”

“I hope this is investigated. If this is investigated, in a Senate or Congressional hearing, it can be seen… This is really, really unacceptable. This is abominable. This is repulsive. This is highly irregular, highly irresponsible. This is highly criminal,” he lamented, suggesting that the pharmaceutical company’s payments to doctors may increase the prescribing of a drug.

The Department of Health (DOH), on the other hand, has already issued Department Circular No. 2024-0141, reminding all medical professionals to “uphold professional and ethical standards” following recent reports of pharmaceutical companies providing privileges through a “multi-level marketing scheme” to entice them to advertise/prescribe medical products.

“The Department of Health (DOH) strictly reminds all doctors, nurses, medical professionals, and DOH personnel in medical centers, hospitals, and medical facilities regulated by the DOH that accepting gifts, grants, or any emoluments from Biopharmaceutical companies or members of the industry, in exchange for any act benefiting such company or member of the industry, is unethical,” read the Department Circular No. 2024-0141: Upholding Ethical Standards, Adhering to Medical City Principles for Business Ethics in the Biopharmaceutical Sector and Patients’ Rights and Reiteration of Administrative Order No. 2015-0053 “Implementing Guidelines on the Promotion And Marketing Of Prescription Pharmaceutical Products And Medical Devices,” signed by Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa on Monday.

The DOH also reminded healthcare workers to adhere to the Mexico City Principles of Voluntary Codes of Business Ethics in the Biopharmaceutical Sector, or the Mexico City Principles (MCP), which are anchored on healthcare and patient focus, integrity, independence, legitimate intent, transparency, and accountability, and laid out the standards for the ethical promotion of medicines.


“Medical professionals are expected to uphold professional and ethical standards. The interest of the patient shall be paramount to any interest. Societal pressures, financial gains, and administrative exigencies shall not compromise the rights of the patient to quality healthcare service.”

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