Taking a serious note of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) endorsing various products including a popular brand of fruit juice and oats, the Medical Council of India (MCI) -- the statutory body regulating medical education and practice in India -- has included “endorsements” as one of the main topics for discussion at a committee meeting to be held soon.

“The MCI has noted that IMA has been endorsing products against the code of ethics for any professional body of doctors and had issued them a notice on the matter. MCI's ethics committee had issued a show-cause notice to the IMA for endorsing various products and sought a reply on the matter earlier this year. The issue will be discussed at the MCI committee meeting to be organised soon. We will take a final decision at the meeting,'' said MCI deputy general Dr. Reena Nayyar.

In November 2008, the central working committee of IMA had approved endorsements of a popular juice, oats, mosquito repellent cream, gel and lotion. Most of the endorsements were to be in operation till March 2011 bringing in more than Rs.2 crore for IMA.

“IMA has not endorsed any product in the last two years, 2009 and 2010, and our endorsement committee will be coming to an end in 2011,'' noted an IMA official.

“Endorsements are against the code of ethics prescribed by MCI and doctors and/or their organisations aren't allowed to promote their products. We don't want any exception to be made in this regard. IMA should be asked to stop all endorsements and not be allowed to wait till 2011 for its commitments to get over,” said a senior doctor from Kerala, Dr. Babu KV, who has been campaigning against endorsements.

Dr. Babu, an IMA central committee member, had complained to MCI in 2008 about endorsements by IMA which according to him were in violation of the medical ethics. IMA had at that time noted that they had not endorsed the products but had signed an MoU with a well-known private company for a “nutritional awareness programme”.