Patient Rights Body Seeks Immediate Probe into Bogus HIV-kits Scam in Bengal

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 29 2007 8:27 PM

A voluntary medical organisation fighting for patients' rights in India has filed a public suit against West Bengal Health Minister Surja Kanta Mishra and senior state health officials seeking immediate probe into a bogus HIV-kits scam in the state.

The People for Better Treatment (PBT) filed a Public Interest Litigation in Calcutta High Court on Aug 23 here, seeking immediate intervention of the court in finding out how HIV contaminated blood was transfused to thalassaemia-affected children in West Bengal.

Besides Mishra, the PIL was filed against the state health director and the project director of West Bengal AIDS Control Society (WBSACS).

The PIL also demanded a neutral inquiry into the case by an investigating agency to find out how blood donated by HIV-infected people could go into circulation despite the mandatory testing in the blood banks.

"We have filed the petition in the Calcutta High Court seeking justice for those who have unknowingly been infected by the deadly disease. According to the fact-finding by the PBT, over 27 thalassaemia patients got fresh HIV infections after blood transfusion in different medical banks in West Bengal," PBT member Debopriyo Mallick told IANS on the sidelines of a press conference here Tuesday.

PBT, spearheaded by India-born AIDS researcher in the US Kunal Saha, is a medical society dedicated to protect patients' rights in India.

Saha, a researcher based in Columbus, Ohio, was appointed by the World Bank to investigate allegations of sub-standard HIV testing kits being distributed in India.

He came to India in March-April this year to investigate allegations of corruption in the distribution of HIV testing kits in different parts of India. He came with the team of Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) from the World Bank as a medical consultant from the US, Mallick said.

The HIV testing kit scam was exposed in October 2006, pointing fingers at senior state health department officials. Monozyme India, a Secunderabad-based company, allegedly supplied the bogus HIV-test kits to state government-run hospitals and medical banks.