When People Become Guinea Pigs

In India, medical trials are conducted mostly on poor and impoverished people, generally from the villages, who do not have any knowledge of the diseases that afflict them. Such unethical practices which are being funded by multinational corporations are spearheaded by doctors who are in direct contact with the people.

 

Clinical trials are an important part of discovering new drugs throughout the world. These trials are necessary for the discovery of a new drug molecule and for making it conducive for curing a disease. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently came out with a report which shows that 2,031 people died during drug trials in India between 2008 and 2011. This works out to more than 10 people per week or more than one person per day. The Government of India is still analysing the report and investigating the mortality caused by drug trials. The data also reveals that India accounts for only 1.5 per cent of the drug trials happening across the world, which contradicts the perception that the country is emerging as a hub of clinical trials.
According to some medical experts, this data is not to be taken at its face value because of some terminal diseases like cancer which account for the elevated mortality rate. According to them the collation of data should be undertaken at a ground level, without considering the world statistics, by analysing the number and causes of death, and also what effect the clinical trial had on the test subjects. The experts also said that the data certifies India undertaking a minuscule amount of clinical trials among all the countries of the world. This, according to them, makes it clear that the country is not as big a centre as it is made out to be. According to the WHO report, the mortality was 438 in 2011, 668 in 2010, 637 in 2009 and 228 in 2008.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently came out with a report which shows that 2,031 people died during drug trials in India between 2008 and 2011.  This works out to more than 10 people per week or more than one person every day. The Government of India is still analysing the report and investigating the mortality caused by drug trials.

However, if clinical drug trials are considered separately from the discovery of each new drug molecule, the ground reality in the country is quite dubious. This is because more often than not, the subjects used for the trials are not ready to divulge information, and the State as well as private medical institutions have turned a deaf ear to or put up a shady picture of clinical trials. According to the Clinical Trials Registry (India), ‘the data and reports of various trials are often difficult to find and in some cases do not even exist as many trials are abandoned or the conclusions are not published due to negative or equivocal results.’
Different non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been voicing their concern over India turning into a hot spot for human drug trials where, in most of the cases, hospital patients are being used as guinea pigs for the pharmaceutical companies, often without their consent. One of the most glaring cases of illegal clinical trials happened in Indore where unapproved drugs were administered on an experimental basis to 233 mentally challenged individuals without the permission of their families. The Supreme Court in February this year asked the Union Health Ministry and the Medical Council of India to conduct an inquiry in this case. The petition was filed by an NGO, Swasthya Adhikar Manch, which alleged that the medical trials are illegal and must not be conducted on humans. According to Mr. D.N. Sanyal, a lawyer of the Kolkata High Court, ‘these are the times when several companies undertake drug trials without any consent. All these things are happening now even though the media is so well informed. Look at the situations in rural areas where people often undergo hardships to get adequate good food and shelter. Most of the multinationals are taking advantage of this situation for their business purposes. Now it is the duty of the Medical Council of India to control unauthorised drug trials in India.’
As the scope of medical research is becoming vast and expansive, there in an increasingly urgent need for these researches to be methodical and culturally valid. In India, medical trials are conducted mostly on poor and impoverished people, generally from the villages, who do not have any knowledge of the diseases that afflict them. Such unethical practices which are being funded by multinational corporations are spearheaded by doctors who are in direct contact with people. Due to these immoral practices the vulnerability of India as a developing nation becomes exposed in front of the world.

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