Yes, it is a fact that every so-called educational trip to attend medical conferences, whether in Naran or Norway, the cost of the trip is covered through the price patient pays to buy medicine. Every sip of bottled water, every morsel of exotic culinary, every flight or ferry and luxury hotel cost is an allocated part of the price of a medicine. Physicians hardly attend the academic sessions when they travel abroad to attend such expensive congresses. Instead, they spend most of their time sightseeing and shopping. Many physicians just disappear from the convention center and show up only at dinner times to enjoy a free meal.

In poor countries like Pakistan, this menace must be controlled by a governing or regulatory body. All international medical congress secretariats ensure that the latest content is available on the internet at their websites. There is, therefore, no need to travel to those expensive destinations except with an intention for recreation and holidays.

I disagree with the respected author of the article published in Dawn Business & Finance on 27th May – 2nd June 2019 titled “Pharma industry on tenterhooks” where the author closed the article with a quote stating that “Pharmaceutical companies are unable to cover costs. Some of them may compromise on good manufacturing practices, which will inevitably impact the quality and efficacy of the drugs.” It looks like an advocacy article. Reality is that if the Pharma industry wouldn’t have had huge gross margins they wouldn’t be sponsoring 25-50 doctors to international congresses each year.

Some recommendations are 1) Endocrine Updates, the so called medical event, a picnic in real planned on 20-23rd June 2019 in Naran Valley should be immediately cancelled and should be shifted to Larkana, where the same learned doctors can help patients suffering with HIV and the same pharma funded money should be spent on the HIV patients rather than on doctors’ picnics. 2) Under foreign sponsorships, only for skills, hands-on training& simulations based professional education events should be allowed. 3) Subjective educational content from international congresses should only be allowed to be imparted through internet or webinars to save huge unnecessary foreign remittances. 4) A centralized body should be formed to evaluate doctors to be sponsored abroad, funded by pharmaceutical companies. Selection of the doctors must not be done by Pharma. 5) Specialists should learn from advanced conferences and GPs should be exposed to only primary care educational events. 6) 25% cost should be paid by the doctors themselves so that they value the importance of the conference. 7) Doctors returning from international conferences must teach the local doctors in at least two workshops in rural areas. The evidence of this teaching should be documented and reviewed in order to qualify the doctors for future international sponsorships. 8) Doctors should be independent to attend any conference from their own pocket anywhere in the world 9) For domestic medical conferences, all resorts and recreational locations must be declared unethical and illegal 10) Spouses should not be allowed to accompany doctors during Domestic conferences. 11) Domestic conferences should be partially funded; half of the cost should be borne by the doctor himself. 12) Domestic conferences should only be organized in tier-2 cities of Pakistan to transfer knowledge from internationally exposed doctors.

I sincerely hope that doctors’ community will take this deliberation positively as the only intention is to improve healthcare with minimum cost burden on patients in this poor country.

MUHAMMAD HANIF ANWAR,

Abu Dhabi, UAE.