Indore (India), Aug. 11 : A 27-year-old salesman of Abbott Laboratories' operations in India, one of the American health care company's top performers there, committed suicide amid pressure from the company to achieve sales target.
A note found in his pocket after the suicide read, "I'm going to commit suicide because I can't meet my company's sales targets and my company is pressuring me," reports the New York Times.
Ashish Awasthi's death last month resonated across India and through health care giant. More than 250 fellow Abbott drug representatives in India walked off the job for a day, protesting what some called the company's overly aggressive sales policies.
A national union of drug sales workers called for new government rules to rein in sales practices industry-wide, saying they compromised with the patient's health.
It was found that to win customers in India's highly competitive drug market, some Abbott managers instructed employees to pursue sales at virtually any cost , in violation of Indian law, professional medical standards and the company's own ethics guidelines.
In one of the most common practice, Abbott managers told sales staff to hold "health camps", where the representatives would perform tests on patients for various ailments in an effort to step up business for doctors, who would in return prescribe Abbott drugs.
Sales personnel who perform screening tests could be accused of practicing medicine without a license, which is a criminal offense, said Dr.
Jayshree Mehta, president of the Medical Council of India, the country's medical regulatory agency. "Indian medical ethics regulations also prohibit quid pro quo," said Mehta. Abbott India's public affairs director, Anand Kadkol said "the company's marketing policies are aligned with applicable laws in India." He called the health camps "disease awareness education programs" and said that the company's policies did not allow the camps to be conducted "in exchange for an explicit or implicit understanding" to prescribe Abbott products.
But a former manager of a sales team in northern India, Vivek Gupta, said he was fired last year when he tried to resist the pressure to make his sales representatives do more screenings of patients to promote a new Abbott multivitamin for nerve damage.
He said he resisted out of respect for the national rules and the company's own policies. Another former sales agent in central India in the neurology division, 26-year old Dhirendra Yadav said he resigned in December 2013 under "immense pressure to conduct business in unethical ways.".