Bhopal survivors used in drug trials piece shortlisted for Press Gazette Jornalism Awards

Journalist Nina Lakhani’s articles on drug trails in India have been shortlisted for investigation of the year in the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards.

Nina Lakhani and Andrew Buncombe from The Independent have been recognized for their investigative piece ‘How Western pharmaceutical companies use guinea pigs in India’ which was followed by a second investigative article: ‘From tragedy to travesty: Drugs tested on survivors of Bhopal.’

The Independent revealed Western drug companies have been using patients in India as guinea pigs to test new medications and vaccines. The majority of patients, many of whom are suffering from debilitation illnesses resulting from the 1984 gas disaster and the subsequent water contamination, were unaware that they were taking part in such trials.

The exploitation of unwilling, and often illiterate guinea pigs has led to 14 deaths from three trials, none of which have been adequately investigated by the ethics committees involved. The drug trial industry in India is now worth over £189 million.

The Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) hospital set up for survivors of the Bhopal disaster violated international ethical standards and has been accused of putting patients at risk. The hospital made more than 10m rupees (£140,000) from British, US and French drug companies for carrying out the trials for treatments that have since been approved for use in Europe and the US.

Although this is the first year for the awards, press Gazette editor Dominic Ponsford said “The standard of entries was superb, with the investigation of the year category alone attracting more than 40 high-quality entries.”

The winners will be announced at the first Press Gazette British Journalism Awards, to be held at Stationers’ Hall in London on 4 December 2012.

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We believe Dow must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.