Tim Sandler reports for NBC:
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.
Gulhati, the editor of the Indian medical journal, said official inquiries into drug-trial deaths are rare.
“Unlike the Western countries where there is an audit of each death during [a] clinical trial, we don't have a system like that at all,” he said. “So that is the biggest problem.”
The lack of oversight by Indian government officials, Gulhati added, has created a culture of impunity for drug research companies and the doctors who work for them.
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.