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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19595

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Umanadh JBS
Driven by poverty, AP women turn ‘guinea pigs’
The Deccan Herald 2011 Jun 19


Non-vegetarian food every day and payment in thousands on way home were the appeasements that led 25 women of Pidiguralla town in coastal Guntur district to become volunteers for a clinical trial for breast cancer.

Full text:

After a three-month sojourn at a posh hotel in Hyderabad, enjoying old Telugu movies and no burden of hard labour, these women are now repenting that they had to pay a huge price for the luxuries offered by the multi-national pharma companies.

Women quarry and clamine workers of Adarshanagar and Lenin Nagar of Piduguralla, who were made to take trial doses of drugs after each blood sale, are now suffering from a series of diseases, including chest and joint pain.

The historic town of Piduguralla is popular as the gateway of erstwhile Palnadu region known for its fierce warriors and red hot chilies. But poverty in the arid region had driven even its women to become guinea pigs for clinical trials.

The women in the age group of 25 to 45 years were not aware of what drugs were given to them and opted to give blood in exchange of cash and became volunteers for a clinical trial. They were paid amounts ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 1 0,000 depending on the number of doses of drug they were ready to consume.

Dhanalakshmi (30), who was a dancer, took up work in a stone crushing unit in Piduguralla after the society ostracised her. “My youngest son has congenital heart disease and I needed money for his treatment. I attended the selection round at the Miyapur-based firm and I received Rs 9,000. But the injections made me weak, and I am suffering from chest pain, body ache and nausea,” Dhanalakshmi says.

While Ademma (55) traveled to Hyderabad where she was made to take tablets.
“When I complained about giddiness, I was asked to go home and return only after gaining weight. Now I am not in a position to attend even to the routine household work,” Ademma rues. The story of 35-year-old Jakka Kumari is no different. Jakka Kumari managed to earn Rs 2,000 for the two visits she made to the clinic, but fell prey to many diseases.

Luring victims

The company brokers have spread a network to lure more women and they even accorded a warm reception to them at the railway station.

The Director of Medical and Health (DMHO) Dr Gopi Naik and Jayaramaulu, municipal commissioner of Piduguralla said: “It is illegal to test drugs directly on human beings.

We have started a probe into the incident.” Meanwhile, the investigation had driven brokers like Kommu Karunamma, Karimullah and other agents of the companies go underground. When contacted an official of Axis labs confessed to have roped in one woman from Piduguralla for the trial.

“It is not a clinical trial of any new drug but only a a routine bioequivalence study of a drug that is already in the market by another company,” he claimed and refused to specify the name of the drug or the pharma company. The government action came after a complaint filed by the victims with the State Human Rights Commission, which took up the case suo-moto and directed the health authorities to file a report by July 18 on the status of clinical trials in the state.

The SHRC observed that since trials of new drugs are usually done on guinea pigs or rats, the pharmacy company’s action can be considered a basic violation of human rights.
Meanwhile, medical and paramedical personnel were sent to the colonies for a door-to-door survey so as to send the needy to the government general hospital in Guntur.


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Far too large a section of the treatment of disease is to-day controlled by the big manufacturing pharmacists, who have enslaved us in a plausible pseudo-science...
The blind faith which some men have in medicines illustrates too often the greatest of all human capacities - the capacity for self deception...
Some one will say, Is this all your science has to tell us? Is this the outcome of decades of good clinical work, of patient study of the disease, of anxious trial in such good faith of so many drugs? Give us back the childlike trust of the fathers in antimony and in the lancet rather than this cold nihilism. Not at all! Let us accept the truth, however unpleasant it may be, and with the death rate staring us in the face, let us not be deceived with vain fancies...
we need a stern, iconoclastic spirit which leads, not to nihilism, but to an active skepticism - not the passive skepticism, born of despair, but the active skepticism born of a knowledge that recognizes its limitations and knows full well that only in this attitude of mind can true progress be made.
- William Osler 1909