By Madhavi Tata
Poor Andhra villagers now victims of clinical drug trials.
No Drug Resistance
•35 women, some men from Guntur district put through clinical trials of a breast cancer drug. They later complain of joint pains, nausea and chest pains.
•Biotech industry in Andhra is worth about Rs 455 crore (around $100 million)
•Touts operating on behalf of pharma companies get people from the poorer districts to Hyderabad for the tests
Some 35 women and a few men in Piduguralla village of Guntur district have become unwitting guinea pigs to what looks like clinical trials for breast cancer drugs. The women, all lime kiln workers, were recruited by brokers and taken to Axis Clinical Labs in Miyapur area of Hyderabad sometime between February-April where they were kept for four days. They were given medicines, their urine and blood samples taken at regular intervals and then sent home.
The victims earned around Rs 10,000 (roughly $222) each and were promised up to Rs 30,000 (about $666) more if they “passed the test”. It was only when one of the women, wracked by severe joint pains, dizziness, nausea and chest pains complained to a local leader that the truth was out. She bore on her a slip showing that she had been tested for a drug by Axis Lab on behalf of GVK Bio, a leading pharmaceutical firm. The rest of the women soon followed with a litany of similar complaints. A check on their profiles showed that all the women were poor, some were widows, some single mothers with ailing kids, others were deep in microfinance debts and some needed the Rs 10,000 to finish building their houses.