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Bihar to crack down on illegal drug tests

Companies accused of sponsoring trials on poor patients by paying bribes to doctors

Gulf News

Patna: Alarmed at reports of illegal drug trials on poor patients, the state government in Bihar has vowed to crack down on doctors involved in the racket. Authorities say majority of the illegal clinical trials relate to anti-cancer formulations.

Health department authorities said so far, only three clinical trials of drugs had taken place in the state with permission from the Drug Controller General of India, which is the sole sanctioning authority for allowing such trials.

While two such trials were conducted in the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Science, Patna, an autonomous organisation on the pattern of New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), the third was done at the Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital at Muzaffarpur.

But media reports have pointed out several multinational companies sponsoring such drug trials on poor patients by paying huge bribes to the local doctors. Reports suggest that although all sorts of drugs are being tested, anti-malignancy medicines remain on top of the companies’ preference list.

“I too have received reports pertaining to clandestine drug trials by some doctors as well as some obscure clinics. The government will not allow such rackets in which human beings are being used as guinea pigs for trials by drug companies,” state health minister Ashwini Kumar Choube told the media.

Revoking licences

If any doctor has indulged in the illegal act, the minister added, the state government would approach the Medical Council of India to cancel their licence.

The ethical committee of the state’s premier medical college, Patna Medical College and Hospital, has alerted all its department heads and directed them not to allow such trials on patients without prior permission.

“The ethical committee has also made it mandatory to obtain formal consent from patients before subjecting them to clinical trials to check efficacy of the new medicines,” ethical committee chairman Dr N.P. Yadav said.

The number of cancer patients in Bihar has recorded an alarming rise in recent years. According to a recent survey conducted by the Mahavir Cancer Research Institute, the state has an estimated 200,000 people suffering from the disease. The study noted that the lack of awareness coupled with illiteracy and poverty have exposed the masses to the disease.

A recent report issued by the government has found Bihar reporting the third highest cancer deaths in the country after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. The figure issued by the National Cancer Registry Programme of the Indian Council of Medical Research said 43,864 people died of cancer in Bihar in 2011.