Millennium Post

Trials and their myriad travails

The Supreme Court’s order to halt 157 government-approved clinical trials comes in good regard and certainly in the best interest of the country. The apex court’s underlining of the fact that drug trials must be undertaken only if they are of potential benefit to the people at large is commendable, given the multinational companies’ attitude towards poorer Indians, whom they treat as nothing better than guinea pigs and laboratory rats, at the beck and call of international pharmaceutical companies. The SC’s insistence that stringent new regulatory norms be followed at every instance before any clinical trial is conducted in India comes as a relief to not just our poor and ailing, but also the health sector at large, which is often at the receiving end of Big Pharma, being bullied through vicious pricing and other means. The strict new regimen of conducting clinical trials that involves a three-tier test, which include the NDACs, technical and apex committees, came into being in January this year, and the court’s order directing the government-approved trials to wait until the tests are through is well-meaning. This is in-keeping with India’s efforts to expand its role and step up its voice in the global health and pharmaceutical sector, and increasing its market for indigenously-produced cheaper drugs as a matter of policy and principle.
Evidently, clinical trials have been a burning issue in India and other developing countries, with multinational pharmaceutical giants flouting all rules to conduct illegal tests on animals and human being. Already, ethical questions have been raised on the efficacy and moral mooring of these trials, with terrible side-effects and deaths, often miserable ones after unbearable agony, becoming a routine feature in these trials. While the western pharmaceutical companies cast a blind eye to the tribulations following the clinical trials, ignoring the plight of those affected in the process, the rush to create more and more drugs to beat the newer and more virulent forms of diseases is also equally misplaced. Moreover, along with the contested methods of patenting, the pharma companies, through running their ill-tested clinical trials in less developed countries, in effect undermine the integrity and sovereignty of the latter, treating the lives of their people as dispensable. This pathetic hypocrisy must be addressed firmly in the international forums.
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