Bhopal gas victims allege unethical drug trials

February 24th, 2011 - 8:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhopal, Feb 24 (IANS) Hundreds of survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy Thursday marched to the Bhopal Memorial Hospital here, demanding suspension of senior consultants, who they alleged, were involved in unethical drug trials on gas victims. Led by five organisations, they also demanded compensation for those on whom drug trials have been conducted without their knowledge or consent.

At least one protestor claimed that a docor fromthe memorial hospital tested a drug, Ticagrelor, on her late husband Shankarlal without either his or her knowledge or consent.

As per the records of the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre (BMHRC), last year 3,000 non-gas patients were given dialysis facility while only 900 gas victims were able to avail it.

The agitators also pointed out that in the same year the doctor in-charge of the dialysis unit, Dr. Mahendra Atlani, earned Rs.364,000 from the non-gas patients.

The organisations, fighting for justice in the Union Carbide disaster of december 1984, based on documents obtained through Right to Information Act (RTI), recently claimed that at least 10 gas victims died during the unethical drug trial conducted at the BMHRC.

The BMHRC was established in 1998 following the gas tragedy, which killed 3,000 people instantly and affected over 15,000 due to a leak of methyl isocyanate gas from the Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in the heart of the city.

More than 25,000 have died and over 500,000 have been effected in over 26 years but the role of the hospital has always remained shrouded in controversy as the authorities focused more on private patients than the gas victims.

The protesters included those who claimed unethical drug trials have been conducted on them.

Laxmi Bai, one of the protesters, alleged Dr. S.K. Trivedi tested Ticagrelor drug on her late husband Shankarlal without either his or her knowledge or consent.

The protesters said the drug manufactured by multinational pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca is still not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory agency in the US.

Among them also was Amir, son of Rayees, a gas victim who died of a kidney disease in June 2010 because he was denied dialysis facility at the BMHRC. Phullo Bai, a woman from a below poverty line (BPL) family whose husband Ram Singh died at age of 50 in March 2009 as he too was denied the facility, also joined the march.

Another gas victim, Ramadhar Shrivastav, said he was given an unnamed medicine by Trivedi for a year and a half as part of a drug trial. He also joined in the march.

Also marching was Sameena, 30, who was diagnosed with chronic renal failure two and a half years back. She needs the dialysis facility on a regular basis to stay alive. Coming from a BPL family, she had registered with the BMHRC and is entitled to free medical care but despite repeated attempts, she has not been able to receive the facility.

Tanveer, 45, who was also denied the facility, joined the march.

Decrying preferential treatment of non-gas victims at the hospital, the marchers opposed attempts by the state government to take the hospital’s control and demanded the central government to take over the hospital’s administration.

The organisations leading the march stated that senior consultants of BMHRC broke the law in 2004 by carrying out Phase III drug trials because such trials were illegal prior to 2005.

“We condemned the state government for not disclosing the findings of the investigation on these trials and demand that the central government must act against the consultants who were interfering with the medical records of the trials,” said Balkrishna Namdeo of Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha.

The organisations expressed concern over current attempts by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to hand over the BMHRC’s administration to an autonomous body. They said the state government’s failure to run the hospitals for gas victims has been well documented in the seven reports of the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court.

Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) said: “The reports of the Monitoring Committee highlighted terrible inadequacies in terms of lack of specialists and doctors, absence of treatment protocols, unavailability of quality medicines, inadequacy of patient recording system and unhygienic and unsanitary conditions.”

The organisations pointed out that the Supreme Court directed the DAE July 19, 2010, to take over the running of the BMHRC and its current attempt to pass on the responsibility amounts to contempt of the court’s order.

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