Am I on a clinical trial?


I read this absolutely shocking article in Wired where it talks about India’s poor consumers and how she is a low cost destination for doing clinical trials. It also goes on to mention  how Indian legal systems are lax and that pharma companies even take advantage, if tests fail(read people dying!!) due to lack of proper legal processes!

Here are some excerpts from the article:

By 2010, total spending on outsourcing clinical trials to India could top $2 billion, according to Ashish Singh, vice president of Bain & Co., a consulting firm that reports on the health-care industry.

According to a 2004 study by Rabo India Finance, a subsidiary of the Netherlands-based Rabo Bank, clinical trials account for more than 40 percent of drug-development costs. The study also found that performing the studies in India can bring the price down by about 60 percent.

In 2004, two India-based pharmaceutical companies, Shantha Biotech in Hyderabad and Biocon in Bangalore, came under scrutiny for conducting illegal clinical trials that led to eight deaths.

In another incident, Sun Pharmaceuticals convinced doctors to prescribe Letrozole, a breast cancer drug, to more than 400 women as a fertility treatment in a covert clinical trial — and used the results to promote the drug for the unapproved use. Pfizer, Eli Lily, Novo Nordisk, Glaxo Smithkline have been conducting clinical trials in India for many years ….

I have always felt the medical systems in India are never above board. Patient ignorance is always taken for granted and abused by doctors. Many a times, I have felt that I am being asked to take tests when it is not needed or am given a prescription which includes certain drugs or tablets which may not be necessary. I normally don’t trust these doctors, as I am left with a feeling that they are working hand-in-glove with pharma companies or pathology clinics. It is a well-known fact that these companies use PR, doctors and the goverments to manipulate healthcare.  Hospitals too, have joined the bandwagon and some of the well-known hospital groups don’t have any ethical standards.The consumers are left suffering in the bargain.

So, when I see a marketing initiative by pharma companies, I rarely trust them at all. Today, we have a heart day, diabetic day, cancer day to name a few in India. The pharma companies have a lot to do, to gain the trust of consumers. I think the doctor-pharma companies nexus needs to be broken. We need to have a second-opinion physicians network , who can help consumers analyse whether their doctors are doing the right thing and then get into treatment. This must become mandatory. A new company neutral advisory platform is necessary. May be an equivalent of wiki for medical advice is needed.

Else, I will always feel, am on a clinical trial!

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