Keeping a close watch, critics of this collaboration pointed out that training and educating health personnel under the AMR project would grant Pfizer access to policymakers besides the doctor.
New Delhi: The joint decision of New York-based drugmaker Pfizer and Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) to collaborate for the council’s Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) project seems to have ignited criticism with allegations that there was no selection procedure by which ICMR decided to partner with Pfizer from among dozens of Indian and multinational pharma companies that manufacture antibiotics.
Recent reports in Times of India have elaborated in detail about the charges of conflict of interest.
Critics pitched soon after the council collaborated with a multinational antibiotic seller, Pfizer for the AMR project,asking details of how the collaboration was made. The project proposes that the ICMR network hospitals would adopt nursing homes/ district hospitals in surrounding areas and provide training to the nursing homes and district hospitals in various aspects.
Keeping a close watch, critics of this collaboration points out that training and educating health personnel under the AMR project would grant Pfizer access to policymakers besides the doctor.
As per the TOI report, it will specifically helpful for the company given its recent declaration that it will stop sponsoring and gifting doctors. Last year, ICMR had organized four workshops on antimicrobial stewardship training, including one in partnership with Pfizer, for healthcare staff of various medical colleges and hospitals.
ICMR-Pfizer AMR Centre has been funded by funds provided by Pfizer as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) allocations under existing ICMR-Pfizer memorandum of understanding.
Affirmation to this came by Dr Kamini Walia,” Pfizer came forward on its own and offered its CSR funds with no strings attached,” Dr Kamini Walia, programme officer for AMR in ICMR, told TOI.
She also confirmed that it was not the scarcity of funds for the AMR project which made ICMR collaborate with Pfizer.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that Pfizer has provided an initial grant of Rs 6.97 crore for this initiative with a provision to scale up further as the program expands.
However, according to a report by the daily, the programme officer for AMR in ICMR accepted that there was no selection procedure by which ICMR decided to partner with Pfizer from among dozens of Indian and multinational pharma companies that manufacture antibiotics.
“Pfizer’s role is in the communication campaign, which they are more equipped to handle. They are making radio jingles and so on for which they have hired a creative agency. They have retained Rs 2-3 crore of the funds they offered for developing the communication material. But all the communication material is approved by ICMR. The rest of the money, Rs 4.47 crore, has been transferred to the ICMR,” Dr Walia explained the daily.
Speaking to the daily, Pfizer’s spokesperson said that its collaboration with ICMR is a CSR initiative formalized in 2017 and added that this was not aimed at promoting any Pfizer product. At Pfizer, ethical marketing takes priority over achieving commercial goals and it does not support or accept unethical promotion, the spokesperson insisted.
“The ICMR-Pfizer collaboration will lead to serious Conflicts of interest(COI), with a significant potential for the academic and surveillance activities of ICMR to be influenced by the collaborating pharmaceutical firm. Such an influence will have a negative impact on the AMR policymaking process and derail our National AMR action plan implementation,” Dr Abdul Ghafur, the technical advisory member for the National Antibiotic Policy, in a letter sent to the current DG of ICMR, Dr Balram Bhargava stated.
Dr Ghafur requested ICMR to halt the partnership with Pfizer and explore Public Private Partnership with funding to a common pool as recommended by WHO. He also demanded that all members of the ICMR-AMR committee and similar committees of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the nodal agency for AMR in India, and others involved in surveillance and educational activities of the network must disclose their conflicts of interest in the WHO declaration format.
The Alliance against Conflict of Interest has also urged ICMR DG through a letter to dissolve the partnership. “Pfizer being one of the leading manufacturer marketing antibiotics and vaccines in India has its primary interest in making more profit for its shareholders, while, ICMR is the premier public institute with primary responsibility to guide and regulate research including research on drugs and vaccines. Therefore, ICMR-Pfizer collaboration is an institutional Conflicts of Interest (COI),” stated the Alliance quotes TOI.