Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Bhopal gas survivors protest against unethical drug trials on them


Bhopal, February 24 (Pervez Bari): Survivors of the December 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy, world’s worst industrial catastrophe, led by the representatives of five NGOs working for their welfare on Thursday marched to the Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre, (BMHRC), the hospital meant for free treatment of the gas victims, demanding suspension of senior consultants involved with unethical drug trials on gas victims and compensation for those on whom drug trials have been conducted.
Decrying the preferential treatment of non-gas victims at BMHRC they opposed attempts by the Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), ruled Madhya Pradesh Government to take control of the hospital and demanded taking over of the administration of the hospital by the central government.
The NGOs 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. They condemned the Madhya Pradesh Government for not disclosing the findings of the investigation on these trials and demanded that the Central government must act against the consultants who were interfering with the medical records of the trials.
The five NGOs who led the surviving marchers included: Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmchari Sangh; Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha; Bhopal Gas Peedit Nirashrit Pension Bhogi Sangharsh Morcha; Bhopal Group for Information & Action and Children Against Dow Carbide.
The marchers included Mrs. Laxmi Bai on whose husband Late Mr. Shankarlal, BMHRC consultant Dr. S. K. Trivedi tested a drug named Ticagrelor without his knowledge or consent. The drug manufactured by multinational pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca is still not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the regulatory agency in USA. Another gas victim Mr. Ramadhar Shrivastav who was given an unnamed medicine by Dr. Trivedi for a year and half as part of a drug trial was also in the march. The marchers included Amir son of Mr. Raees, a gas victim with kidney disease who died in June 2010 because he was denied dialysis facility at BMHRC. Mrs. Phullo Bai from a below poverty line family, whose husband Ram Singh died at age 50 in March 2009 because of the same reason, was also part of the march.
Also marching was Ms Sameena (30) who was diagnosed with chronic renal failure two and half years back. Coming from a family that is below poverty line Sameena cannot afford to pay for Dialysis that she needs on a regular basis to stay alive. Ms Sameena is registered with BMHRC and is entitled to free medical care but despite repeated attempts has still not been able to receive facilities for Dialysis. Mr. Tanveer (45) who is also being denied dialysis facility at BMHRC was also part of the march. According to the organizations leading the march, gas victims are routinely denied dialysis and investigation facilities at BMHRC. As per the records of the hospital last year while 3000 non-gas victims were given dialysis facility only 900 gas victims were able to get it. The organizations pointed out that last year the in-charge of the dialysis Unit Dr. Mahendra Atlani has earned Rs. 3.64 lakh from the non-gas victims.
The organizations expressed concern over current attempts by the Department of Atomic Energy, (DAE), to hand over the administration of BMHRC to an autonomous body created with the primary involvement of the Madhya Pradesh Government. They said that the Madhya Pradesh Government’s failure to run the hospitals meant for gas victims has been well documented in the seven reports of the Monitoring Committee set up by the Supreme Court. 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 organizations pointed out that the Supreme Court directed the DAE on 19th July 2010 to take over the running of the BMHRC and its current attempts to pass on the responsibility amounts to contempt of the Court’s order.
It may be mentioned here that BMHRC was established in 1998 after 40 tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate gas spewed from the pesticide plant of the Union Carbide factory in the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984. The gas leak killed 3,000 people instantly and more that 25,000 over the years. It also affected 100,000 people that night and estimates are that more than 500,000 continue to suffer till date. (pervezbari@eth.net)

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