08 May 2008

Pepsico & The IMA - The Saga Continues

Looks like I was the first one off the blocks in criticising the deal between the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Pepsico :) Now, I have company. The Union Health Minister, Anbumani Ramadoss and Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) have both pitched in to criticise the deal, and the IMA.

Despite the criticism, the IMA is sticking to its guns and claiming that they haven't done anything wrong in signing the deal. Let us look at their arguments for sticking by the deal.

As per a story published in Bihartimes (http://bihartimes.com/newsnational/2008/May/newsnational07May2.html) Doctor Ajay told IANS that if people drink"Pure Juice", they will not drink aerated soft drinks. Furthermore, as per the good doctor, patients suffering from diabetes and kidney problems should be consuming these juices only after they have been advised by their doctors. Now, wait a minute! Looks like the good doctor has never had Pure Juice from Pepsi before; nor has he had really pure juice before. As per the understanding in India, and elsewhere, pure juice is made by crushing fruits and extracting the juice. If Dr. Ajay had cared to read any of Tropicana's cartons of Pure Juice, he would have found that in many cases Pure Juice is made out of concentrate! Pepsico will certainly claim it to be Pure Juice, but if that is Pure Juice then I am the Prime Minister of India.

Furthermore, the IMA claims that they have endorsed products before and do not see anything wrong in endorsing products. While Eureka Forbes' water filters may not be affordable for all, they sure meet a need for Pure Water, which sadly our cities and towns can't provide to their citizens. Even then, I would not suggest that the IMA should be endorsing products. As I stated in my earlier post (http://kumar-alok.blogspot.com/2008/05/pepsico-and-indian-medical-association.html), doctors in India are treated with a respect which borders on blind faith. Even elsewhere, a doctor's words are taken very seriously. To endorse commercial products would be to abuse the faith that society has in Doctors. I tend to agree with the Union Health Minister here; Doctors should partner with the government and/ or NGOs in the fight against TB, Malaria, and other diseases. That would be repaying society's faith in them.

The, there is the confusion about money. While Doctor Ajay would have us believe that they, the IMA, did not receive any money in this deal, there are others who are telling us that the IMA received 50 lakhs for this deal, and the money is to be deposited in their general fund. We are also told that the IMA is in talks with other companies as well, to endorse their products. Sunita Narain has had the last word on this - she doesn't expect the IMA to become the Indian Marketing Association.

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