The Central Board for Direct Taxes has accused the manufacturers of Dolo-650 tablets of distributing freebies worth Rs 1,000 crore to doctors for prescribing the medicine, a body of medical and sales representatives told the Supreme Court on Thursday, Live Law reported.

Dolo is a fever-reducing drug manufactured by Micro Labs Limited.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh, appearing for the Federation of Medical and Sales Representatives’ Associations of India, told the court that the market price of Dolo tablets with dosage strength of up to 500 mg is regulated.

However, the manufacturing company can price the drug at its will for dosages beyond 500 mg. The freebies were distributed to persuade doctors to prescribed the tablets with a dosage strength of 650 mg.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was hearing a plea seeking directions to give statutory backing to the Uniform Code of Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices in order to curb unethical practices of drug makers.

“The Code is already there, so it is only whether it should be voluntary or statutory in nature,” Advocate Parikh submitted, according to Live Law.

Justice Chandrachud, who tested positive for Covid-19 in June, said that he too was prescribed the same drug, Bar and Bench reported.

“This is not music to my ears,” he said. “This is a serious issue and matter.”

The plea sought directions to make pharmaceutical firms responsible for offering freebies to doctors as an incentive to prescribe medicines to patients. The petitioner also cited the example of the Remdisivir anti-viral drug, which saw a surge in sales during the Covid-19 pandemic, reported Bar and Bench.

The plea stated that the right to health is part of the right to life, and so, drug makers should follow ethical marketing practices.

The Supreme Court, on Thursday, directed the Centre to file a reply to the plea within 10 days.