After it emerged that many poor and illiterate people in India are becoming 'guinea pigs' for drugs trials conducted by various companies, Indian authorities have vowed to tighten regulations over the way medical trials are conducted in the country.
An investigation by The Independent recently revealed that pharmaceutical firms in the West have seized on developing countries like India over the past five years as a testing ground for drugs, where research costs for lucrative products to be sold in the Western nations are very low.
It revealed that since the relaxation of restrictions on drug trials in 2005, this business has swollen to such a point in India today that over 150,000 people are involved in at least 1,600 clinical trials, which are conducted on behalf of British, American and European firms including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Merck.
As campaigners in India and around the world repeated their call for better rules and regulations, official sources admitted that 'weak regulation' was a problem that needed to be tackled by the Drug Controller General of India (DGCI).
A source within the drugs control department said its priorities would be the establishment of clearer guidelines, especially for dealing with adverse reactions to drugs taken during a trial.
"I don't think you can say the oversight was a failure. But it was weak oversight," the paper quoted the source, as saying.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat, who has led calls for better oversight, said changes made to legislation that loosened regulations "must be reviewed in the light of the experience of the last six years."
"Also, the pending bill on regulation must be placed before the parliament. Strong action must be taken on the cases you have written about," she added.