Without consent: how drugs companies exploit Indian ‘guinea pigs’

Posted by: admin on: March 5, 2012

Illiterate patients say they never agreed to take part in trials run by industry worth £189m
India has been a hot spot for drug trials since 2005. Activists through right to information act have found that the poor and the illiterates unknowingly fall a prey to these trials. Read on to know more.


Western pharmaceutical companies have seized on India over the past five years as a testing ground for drugs – making the most of a huge population and loose regulations which help dramatically cut research costs for lucrative products to be sold in the West. The relationship is so exploitative that some believe it represents a new colonialism.

Since restrictions on drug trials were relaxed in 2005, the industry in India has swollen to the point where today more than 150,000 people are involved in at least 1,600 clinical trials, conducted on behalf of British, American and European firms including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Merck. There may be more.

While there is no official figure, some estimates suggest the industry may be worth as much as £189m. Regulators have struggled to keep pace with the explosion. Between 2007 and 2010, at least 1,730 people died in India while, or after, participating in such trials. Many of those people, often only eligible for the studies because they were ill, might have died anyway. Yet when there are complications, even those resulting in deaths, there is often a failure properly to investigate.

Campaigners say India is a particularly attractive location for researchers not simply because of the lax regulations but because of the size and genetic diversity of the 1.2 billion population and because of the variety of conditions to treat. Added to this, almost all doctors speak some English. The infrastructure for such trials, often in the form of government hospitals, is widely available.

While the Indian media has often focused on deaths that have resulted from trials, campaigners say perhaps a bigger issue is the routine exploitation of those who participate in them – individuals who are often poor, ill-educated and unable to read and write.

Many participants said in interviews that they agreed to take part simply because of the recommendation of their doctor, who was very often the person conducting the trials. Since many of those selected to take part are from some of the very poorest communities, individuals have little possibility of redress.

Ref: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/without-consent-how-drugs-companies-exploit-indian-guinea-pigs-6261919.html

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  • drchasrani: Difficult to get such a data, authenticated at that. Try Times of India online library
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