The government has admitted for the first time that thousands of people have died during clinical trials of new drugs produced by multinational pharmaceutical companies.
Federal Minister for Health and Family Welfare Gulam Nabi Azad said yesterday that 1,106 people died in the two years preceding March this year after undergoing human trials of new drugs.
Another 38 deaths were listed as mishaps in connection with these trials, the minister told the upper house of parliament in New Delhi.
Previously the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare reported that the Central Drugs Standards Control Organization had approved drugs for sale in India without clinical trials, he said.
“This is the first time the Indian government has admitted so many people have died of clinical trials in India,” Anand Rai, a doctor-turned-activist who has set up an organization to help clinical trial victims, said today.
His NGO, Clinical Trial Victims of India, has filed several cases in courts across India in a bid to seek justice for victims of these trials.
“[The government] never bothered about the fate of poor victims who had undergone clinical trials,” said Rai, who is based in the central Indian city of Indore.
Multinational drug companies have used Indian citizens as guinea pigs, he added, a process which he said had been fueled by the lack of accountability.
“In most cases, when people died during trials, the doctors listed their deaths as due to chronic illnesses to evade compensation laws,” said Rai.
The health minister has said the deaths could be due to terminal illnesses such as cancer or the administration of strong drugs on critically or terminally ill patients which could lead to fatal side-effects.
Kerala state on the southwest coast has recently closed its health and research center after it conducted 47 such trials over the past three years.