People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 35

September 02, 2012


Medical Representatives Strike for Drug Prices Control


IN response to the decision of the recently held working committee meeting of the Federation of Medical & Sales Representatives’ Associations of India (FMRAI) at Vijayawada (AP) on July 22 and 23, 2012, medical representatives (MRs, or sales promotion employees of the pharmaceutical industry) observed a strike all over the country on August 23, 2012. 


One may note that these MRs number more than 1.5 lakhs.


In Delhi, thousands of medical representatives, under the banner of Delhi Sales & Medical Representatives’ Organisation (DSMRO), which is affiliated to the FMRAI, did not turn up on the day for their field work in major hospitals and institutions. These included the GTB Hospital, Safdarjung Hospital, LNJP Hospital, Ambedkar Hospital, DDU Hospital, Deepak Memorial Hospital, Saroj Hospital, Muni Mayaram Hospital, and scores of smaller nursing homes.


A large number of these workers campaigned during the day on their demands which prompted this industrial action. This section of workers observed the strike to draw attention to the large-scale corporate corruption in the pharmaceutical sector and the government’s dismal failure to reign in this corruption as well as the rising prices of medicines. It may be noted that a section of media was only in the recent past targeting this very section of workers and doctors for corruption, thereby diverting the focus of popular attention from the employers who are actually behind these practices. 


While demanding a cap on medicine prices, the MRs pointed out that high taxation on medicines, including the MRP based excise duties, are one of the major reasons for the high prices of medicines. They also demanded stringent laws, a regulatory system and a code of ethics which must be mandatory and not voluntary. 


The Medical Representatives were also protesting against the increasing attacks, social humiliations and even restriction at their places of work like government hospitals, other institutions, private doctors’ chambers etc.  It is worth mentioning that as per the provisions of law including the SPE Act, sales promotion employees have legal rights to work at such places.


The FMRAI has also been demanding that all drugs must be brought in the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) under cost-based price control as applicable to the ‘list of essential drugs’ under the Drug Prices Contrl Order (DPCO) 1995. this would help ensure their availability through compulsory manufacturing and through the public sector units (PSUs). The FMRAI has organised several actions including strikes in pursuance of this demand.   


The MRs also submitted a memorandum listing their demands to the ministry of labour as well as the ministry of health and family welfare at the end of the day.