Bhopal: Nearly three decades after the Bhopal gas tragedy, comes a new horror for the victims. 279 people were illegally tested for new drugs without their knowledge or consent at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC) – one of the several violations that took place while conducting 10 clinical trials at the hospital.
“They didn’t tell me anything about the medicine. When they used to give me the medicine bottle, they used to make me sign a form which I had no clue about,” said Ramadhar, a gas tragedy survivor.
This shocking revelation shows just how worthless life is in India. Out of 279 people, 215 were gas survivors like Ramadhar with chronic conditions, making them ineligible.
“We also now have confirmation that at least 10 gas victims died while they were on these drug trials. So it’s not just one, but at least 10 trials concerning cardiology, gastrosurgery, psychiatry, pulmonary and anaesthesiology, being conducted on people who are already very sick, people with reduced autonomy, people with no informed consent, who did not even know what these drugs were trying to cure or test on them. So, all of these violations have been found,” said Rachna Dhingra, spokeswoman, Bhopal Group for Info and Action.
According to the rules, deaths that occur during the trial must be reported within seven days and investigated rigorously to rule out any connection to the drug being tested. However, principal investigators in these trials reported them months later, some even two years later.
All clinical trials are overseen by an ethics committee which can take action against any breach that takes place. At the BMHRC, the committee had 19 members, of whom at least 13 were doctors who were carrying out the trials themselves, a serious conflict of interest.
The Drug Controller General of India or DCGI, the regulating authority, is aware of these irregularities but has simply sent a warning note to the hospital instead of stopping the trial according to the law. Unless exemplary action is taken against those who bent the rules, illegal clinical trials will go on and the poor will continue to be used as guinea pigs.