The collusive behaviour between doctors, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies, and medicine sellers has been playing havoc with the health and money of patients who are being looted in the name of healthcare, it is learnt.

A source privy to the issue said that the impact of utility bills of doctors, medicines’ companies, pharmacies and their other expenditures such as salaries hurts the patients’ pocket. The eyes of all the medicine companies and stockists, whether based in Lahore or Karachi, professor doctors to medical officers and wholesalers to retailers are on the patients’ purse string.

“A doctor is a person who never eats a single toast out of his own pocket,” said a senior doctor on the condition of anonymity. “There are 242 pharmaceutical companies registered with the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. The pharmaceuticals and Nutraceuticals are playing havoc with the health of people. Hundreds of other manufacturers at Shah Almi or Multan Raod Lahore have been working without license or registration and flourishing with every passing day.”

“Moreover,” he said, “doctors prescribe the products of those companies that give them commission while the patients are bound to buy the same even if a tablet whose actual price is Rs16 and sold to him at Rs160. It is a white collar mafia and 100% involvement of doctors makes it that of the learned.”

The doctor said, “We have some 1,000 professor doctors throughout Pakistan in public or private sectors. These professor doctors are the main cause of the nexus’ bloom. They are bribed in technical manner. The wards that belong to professors are painted, decorated while new furniture, air-conditioners and water purification plants are installed in the name of patients’ welfare. Moreover, free medicines for the patients or anything which doctors demand are provided to develop good relationship with him.”

“In addition, cars, fully furnished houses, clinics, apparatus and home appliances are given as gifts or family of the doctors is taken to hill stations and kept in five-star hotels for weeks or they are taken abroad in the name of international conferences, and everything is done to get business,” the doctor said. “I myself have gone to Dubai, Russia, far eastern countries, Turkey, Europe and the US, and I don’t know how many times they have taken my family to the best hotels around the country.”

The doctor also admitted that he had personally been asked by various medicine companies’ representatives here and abroad for whiskey, even they offered me women. There is a famous term of 321 used as a code, which means the cost of an injection is Rs60 and it is sold manifold costlier as Rs100 will be given to the doctor per injection and the remaining will be shared by the company and the medical store at the rate of 80pc and 20pc respectively, he added.

He further disclosed that if the doctor who had a pharmacy inside his clinic or hospital would be given medicines with 30 percent discount in addition to 10pc as compared to a medical store.

In the name of research work, millions of rupees are given to these professor doctors, he said. “For example,” explained, “zinc is a nutrient needed to stay healthy. It is found in cells throughout the body which helps immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Now what this nexus does is that the zinc manufacturer books the whole ward of a renowned professor for six months where he provides everything and a research is done on his products. After six months when the research matures, the manufacturer books some seven-star hotel and invites professor doctors along with good practitioners from all over the country to share the research. The professor, who has conducted the research, reads out the paper and this is how he propagates importance and quality of his sponsorer’s product i.e. zinc. Then, the researcher is taken abroad for further business and the money cycle stops nowhere.” According to a medicine company’s accountant, “This is more profitable than the business of heroin and involves neither any check nor threat.”

When contacted, Health Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique said that the Drugs Regulatory Authority of Pakistan was working on the issue and it was focused to ensure the availability of quality medicines at cheaper prices. He said the government would soon devise policies to fight the mafia, adding that it had plans to tackle the matter. Contrarily, EDO Health Dr Ziaul Hasan said that the government had no policy to fight the tripartite collusion.