Information to be disclosed on illegal drug trials undertaken on Bhopal gas survivors

Bhopal gas disaster memorial hospital clinical trials
A protest outside the BMHRC by survivors back in 2010

The Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Center (BMHRC) has been ordered by the Central Information Commission (CIC) to reveal details of controversial clinical trials carried out at the hospital including that of patients who died during the drug trials.

In 2011, it was widely reported that many survivors of the gas disaster were unwittingly used as guinea pigs in clinical trials carried out at the BMHRC and funded by Western pharmaceutical companies. Now the CIC has ordered the hospital to reveal details of people on whom the trials were conducted, the funds the hospital received to carry out the trials from different drug companies, the number of patients that died, the drug companies involved, as well as to disclose the records of review of the trials.

Rachna Dhingra, an activist who has been working with the survivors groups to file the petition against the BMHRC, stated that the “BMHRC was built to provide free medical care to the gas victims but they started testing [patients] as guinea pigs at the behest of multinational pharmaceutical corporations.”

The hospital had previously expressed objections to disclosure of such information which were overruled by the CIC, in order to safeguard “larger public interest.” The BMHRC was further criticized by the CIC for not following previously issued right-to-information orders to collect testimonies from the survivors of the gas disaster. The CIC had instructed the BMHRC to “issue notice to any 25 patients at random on whom drugs were tried” to obtain “their consent for disclosure of their names” as per law.

The petition accused that as many as 15 trials and 13 deaths in 3 trials have taken place and no action initiated against the BMHRC doctors, management or pharmaceutical companies. “We have proof that 15 trials were conducted and the money for the other trials are not accounted for,” Ms. Dhingra’s commented.

A representative of the CIC said “Given the fact that a number of drugs manufactured by foreign/Indian companies were tried on these poor, helpless victims of the gas tragedy, I am of the opinion it would be in the larger public interest to disclose the requested information.”

Girl with candle Bhopal

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