Estrada urges anti-kickback measure in pharma, medical professions

(GMA NEWS) Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Monday called for the passage of an anti-kickback measure in the pharmaceutical industry and the practice of medicine.

Estrada made the call after he alleged in a privileged speech that a pharmaceutical company was enticing doctors to prescribe its medicines in exchange for “exorbitant commissions and lavish incentives.”

“I move to have this issue investigated by the appropriate committee to enable us to craft the needed legislation,” Estrada said.  

“It’s probably high time that we come up with legislation similar to the United States, the Anti-Kickback Statute, a criminal law that prohibits the knowing and willful payment of ‘remuneration’ to induce or reward patient referrals or the generation of business involving any item or service payable by the Federal health care programs,” he added.

Estrada said Bell-Kenz Pharma, Inc., which is owned by Filipino doctors, had distributing anti-hypertensive, anti-diabetic, antibiotic products and health supplements nationwide since 2006.

He said Bell-Kenz recruited doctors by enticing them with “promises of exorbitant commissions and lavish incentives in exchange of prescribing their medicines.” 

Estrada said this was a violation of their ethical principles and a disregard for the sacredness of their profession.

GMA News Online has sought comment from the firm and will publish its side as soon as it is available.

“While it is not illegal for medical professionals to engage in business activities, it is highly unethical when a pharmaceutical company owned by doctors hires other doctors as agents and pays them commissions based on the prescriptions they give to patients,” Estrada said.

“This practice becomes even more concerning when these doctors are also required to meet a quota for the number of prescriptions they give out. This type of behavior is not only unethical but also prejudicial to the well-being of Filipino patients,” he added.

Estrada said that prescribing drugs from doctors who are agents or distributors of Bell-Kenz was a clear conflict of interest under the Mexico City Principles and the Code of Ethics for doctors. —NB, GMA Integrated News