Secret Drug Trials Conducted on Indian Children

By siliconindia   |   Thursday, 05 January 2012, 12:24 Hrs
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A shocking finding

Bangalore: A shocking finding suggested that secret drug trials were conducted on Indian children and patients with learning disabilities. These drug trials have received an angry reaction from activists and it was noted that the 12 doctors involved in these trials were barely fined an amount less than $100 each.

The Madhya Pradesh government said that the tests had not been cleared by health authorities and that the doctors refused to disclose further details citing patient confidentiality laws.

Anand Rai, the doctor who acted as a whistleblower in the case said, “I am angry and frustrated that the scale of the punishment will not deter future illegal trials”, reports AFP. He added that "The Madhya Pradesh government has now slapped a nominal 5,000 rupee ($94) penalty on the 12 government doctors who were involved in the bizarre case. The penalty was for their failure to inform about the trials."

This isn’t the first time that India has been the testing ground for drugs. In the recent past there have been as many as 81 cases of drug trials at a government hospital in Indore which left adverse effects on the patients. Two doctors, who denied any wrongdoing to AFP, are alleged to have been paid by companies to conduct trials on 233 patients over two years in the city of Indore testing drugs to treat sexual dysfunction and other problems.

Human rights groups have shown concern that India is turning into a hot spot for drug trials, with hospital patients used as guinea pigs for Western pharmaceutical companies, often without consent. The reason being is the low costs, weak laws and inadequate enforcement and penalties that prevail in India. Anand Rai was quoted saying "Drug trials are increasing here because they cost just one-sixth of what they do in the West. The regulatory system here is comparatively corrupt, and pharmaceutical companies can easily register patients and begin trials."  He also added that in developed countries, it would take six months to register five patients, whereas in India in the same time they can conduct trials on 2,000 people.

Anand said "All drug trials were performed on patients who had gone to these government hospitals for routine treatment. It's a criminal offence to put them under drug trials without their consent." Ajay Singh, the opposition leader of the Madhya Pradesh assembly described the fine levied on the 12 doctors as "ridiculous".

After facing the mounting criticism the Indian Council of Medical Research finally decided to seek proposals from doctors and health activists and draft new guidelines for compensation to be paid to people undertaking drug trials. As per the guidelines, research participants who suffer physical injury should be entitled to financial or other assistance and to compensate them equitably for any temporary or permanent disability, reported the Times of India.