The Indian government reports that across the country more than 1,500 people have died in clinical trials since 2008, many participating in studies for Western pharmaceutical companies. Because official documentation of the deaths is frequently incomplete or non-existent, it is unclear how many people died from the same illnesses that initially qualified them for certain drug studies.
“People keep falling sick,” he said. “There are many instances where there are swellings in the limbs, loss of eyesight. Several deaths have occurred … It becomes a question of human rights -- a big one at that.”
He offered a recent example. In 2010, an Indian government investigation confirmed 10 deaths at drug trials sponsored by Western drug companies, including Pfizer and Astra Zeneca, at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital and Research Centre. The facility was built to treat survivors of the 1984 Bhopal gas disaster.
Gas survivor patients and their families said some of the doctors who enrolled them never informed the patients that they were in drug studies nor did they pay them the requisite compensation. The hospital was paid more than $200,000 to conduct the studies, according to government records.
Gas survivor advocates also claimed that at least one of the 13 studies conducted between 2004 and 2008 appeared to be illegal in India at the time.