20 August 2008

EXPLOITED?

"This product has not been tested on animals".

I've never been the biggest advocate of animal rights. I don't claim I am now either. But I am somewhat shocked to find, (and in my innocence I reflect my ignorance and naive confidence in human kind) that when we find new cures we often test it out on subjects. OK, so I wasn't really shocked at that.

I was shocked when reading an article online, it was found that we tested on babies. (Well obviously, baby medicine needs to be tested on babies). Which is great, but in a recent case put forth by Rahul Verma, founder of NGO Uday Foundation for Congenital Defects and Rare Blood Groups has suggested, "the unquestionable ease with which clinical trials can be conducted on human beings in India makes international agencies first test their products on the Indian population".

Whilst responding to a Right to Information query put forth by Verma, the AIIMS (All India Instituite of Medical Sciences) has found itself in a bit of a tough spot. Largely because those that were tested on were children and most were under the age of one. Parental consent was sought, and in cases where the parents were unable to read or right, the documents were read out to the parents. One of the major sponsors of research was John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in USA.

In the past two years, close to 50 babies have died for the purpose of research. More importantly the suggestion that parents were unable to read- leads to us having to question on whether there is a disparity between those who do get tested and those who do not. More importantly, I ask, is it game season in India on the illiterate?

So to echo what Verma may be thinking in his head

- Medicinal research conducted on children under the age of 1, with an infant mortality rate of about 1.8%
- Parental consent sought and confirmed, and where they can't understand the consent form, doctors translate and parents sign
- One of the main 5 sponsors is a hospital in another continent, discoveries marketed in a foreign country to be sold back to Indian consumers for profit
- All grants and licences that are required to carry trials out given through government controlled agencies. (We scored quite bad on the Worlds Least Corrupted Countries btw).

And that is why I was shocked.

And that is why I'm making sure all the babies in our rather large extended families, take their pills without a fuss. Can't help thinking about all the babies that have died to make the world a healthier place. And all the parents who may still think that it was God that robbed them of their child, even though they gave it the best form of 'English medicine'.

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