History of Medico Friend Circle

A letter to a friend: The beginning…

A young medical intern (Abhay Bang) posted in 1972 in famine struck Maharashtra who, wrote to a friend, realised the futility and irrelevance of medical and relief measures in’ tackling the’ root causes of socio-economic imbalance. The friend, (Ashok Bhargava) then National Convenor of the Tarun Shanti Sena (a socio-political youth movement Tarun Shanti Sena with close links to the JP (Jai Prakash Narayan) Movement) circulated the letter to the doctors in the TSS. Many letters endorsing the views expressed by Abhay Bang were received. It was decided to start a small discussion forum to discuss the health problems of rural areas and medical education. And thus, the Medico Friend Circle (MFC) came into being!
Evolving into… a nation-wide platform of secular, pluralist, non-funded pro–people, pro poor health practitioners, scientists and social activists interested in the health problems of the people of India.

The Medico Friend Circle has been involved in various activities which involved, advocacy and lobbying on issues of concern, played a watchdog role, representing the voice of the people, undertaken research and policy analysis and participated in campaigns and movements on specific health problems. Some of them are shared below.

  • March 2000, MFC conducted a campaign on “Save Public Health Care Campaign”.
  • July 2000, MFC wrote a letter to Forum for Women’s Health, to give information about Depo Provera users to follow up and get direct information about side effects of its usage.
  • July 2000, MFC Bombay Group, provided support to Mr. Raghunath Raheja, to avail justice on his wife death and have access to patients’ medical records.
  • July 2000, MFC participated in a press conference organised by Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat and CEHAT on 5th July 2000 at the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh to oppose the move to include Hepatitis B vaccination in the Universal Immunisation Programme and also condemn the manner in which the campaign is currently being conducted by politicians.
  • May 2002, MFC sent a letter of protest to News Editor, NDTV, in Connection with a Programme on Gujarat Doctors. This programme was on accessibility of people to health services due to the prevailing communal tension. Gujarat has been engulfed in unprecedented violence. In any disaster, the response of the health services determines the quality of care provided to affected people. And in a natural disaster, medical care automatically becomes one of the first priorities of the relief effort. Hence, as an organisation working on health issues, Medico Friend Circle (MFC) felt the need to investigate the adequacy of medical relief efforts by the public health system.
  • Dec 2002, MFC filed a petition in Supreme Court and have questioned the wisdom of the criteria for drug price control in Pharmaceutical Policy 2002.
  • June 2003, Medico Friend Circle has lodged a complaint with the Medical Council of India (MCI) against Dr. Pravin Togadia, committed misconduct as defined under the Sections 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 and 5.1 and 6.6 of the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics), and has breached general Medical Ethics, for which he deserves to be acted against and punished.
  • Apr 2004, MFC put forth a Memorandum on Polio Eradication Initiative in India – Submitted to the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the Government of India.
  • Oct 2004, members of MFC had a press release on the introduction of hormonal injectable contraceptives, which are hazardous to women’s health. It also stated about the unrealistic targets set by population control policy as a fact of liberalisation.
  • In 2005, MFC passed a resolution to condemn the Supreme Court judgment given in the Shankar Guha Niyogi murder case. Shankar Guha Niyogi had led a major working-class initiative for health and health care, based in a working peoples’ organization.
  • July 2005, the proposed universal ban on iodised salt and the polio eradication initiative.
  • Oct 2005, MFC wrote a letter to Cabinet Health Minister, Anbumani Ramdoss, on Why there is a need to give Hepatitis B Vaccine for all new-borns.
  • July 2006, MFC wrote a letter to PM on Drug Pricing stating that the pharma policy must balance the public interest with economic interest, at this juncture after being skewed in favor of the industry for over the last 3 decades over which the list of drugs under price control have steadily declined from 347 to the present 74. If, the government bows again to the industry and neglects public interest, it shall be labelled complicit in the rising graph of drug prices, healthcare costs and people’s miseries.
  • July 2006, MFC wrote a letter to PM to include “data exclusivity” in the drugs and cosmetics act.
  • March 2007, MFC wrote a Letter to Novartis Counsel Shanti Bhushan from AIDAN, appealing to stop representing Novartis on pharma pricing
  • April 2008, filed a PIL in the Chennai High Court asking for vacating the stay given to Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry (SSI) and some other pharma manufacturers. The stay was given by the Madras HC on the Drug Controller’s order to withdraw a list of 300 and more FDCs (Fixed Dose Combinations).
  • Oct 2008, several members of the MFC and JSA were involved in helping formulate Gujarat Public Health Act 2009.
  • Oct 2008, MFC was a co-petitioner in the ‘Synopsis’ section of the PIL in the Supreme Court, Filed a PIL on Closure of Vaccine Institutes.
  • In March 2009, few MFC members attended the court hearing at the Raipur Sessions Court of Dr. Binayak Sen.
  • Apr 2009, Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, former Supreme Court Judge wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on a case of grave injustice which is a cause of much shame to Indian democracy: that of Dr. Binayak Sen, the well-known paediatrician and defender of human rights.
  • July 2009, MFC received a letter from AIDAN to Margaret Chan, regarding the “revelation” regarding the pneumococcal vaccine that is being promoted by WHO globally and in India that “for every four children in whom pneumonia is prevented, two children develop asthma because of the vaccine.”
  • July 2009, the Medico Friend Circle has debated issues related to population control ‘now for nearly two decades.
  • Sept 2009, MFC wrote a letter to cabinet health minister, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, on Concerns around Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine.
  • Aug 2010, MFC wrote a statement to express outrage on Binayak Sen’s verdict given by Raipur district and sessions court. The note saluted for tremendous selfless contribution of Sen on health and rights towards marginalised and poor. It also demands for justice to be delivered.
  • Oct 2010, MFC along with All India Drug Action Network, LOCOST, MIMS India, SAMA and Several other Civil Society organisation, wrote an open letter notification to Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh on, Takeover of Indian Pharma Companies by MNCs and the visit of PHARMA Delegation to India on 21st October. Since there were 65% of Indian population unable access to medicine in our country, though India remained 4th largest producer of drugs, The letter requested for his personal immediate intervention in the matter which urges the Government operationalise few measures to rescue India from the opprobrium of being home to the largest number of people without access to essential medicines.
  • May 2011, members of AIDAN, Wrote an open letter to PRIME MINISTER regarding selection of person with conflict of interest, as board members of MCI.
  • July 2011, members of MFC did research on Strengthening the Drug Regulatory Mechanism in India (Draft Note for the Working Group on Drugs and Food Regulation for giving inputs for the 12th FYP).