IndiaVision television channel has reported on large scale clinical trials of drug trials in Kerala.

It claims that about 100 people have died during drug trials. This and other allegations are not well corroborated.  Given the number of trials that have taken place in the State, this is, however, not an improbable figure though many of them may have died during the trial due to other causes. But were they well investigated?

Given the number of trials being done in a few of the institutions, it is clear that sufficient attention is not being paid to obtaining informed consent of the patients and proper monitoring of their health and side effects.

The report raises several questions: Is it ethical to use free medical camps as a recruiting ground for clinical trials?

It is seen that old and unhealthy patients have been used for testing new drugs. Though such patients can be subjected to studies on efficacy of approved drugs, is it ethical to try new drugs on them?

It appears that Trivandrum had at least two institutions that were exclusively engaged in drug trials. Is it right for institutions without facilities for emergency care to undertake such tests?

It is reported that a hospital used to obtain consent for testing medicines after patients have been administered with anesthetics and such medicines are injected when they are unconscious. If true, this calls for a criminal investigation.

Should not the ethical committees in hospitals be appointed and controlled by the government. Should not they at least have representatives of government in them? Should not an independent agency be recording informed consent of patients? Or, there should be a government controlled depository for such consents with authority to verify consents randomly. Details of clinical trials being done by each institution should be well-publicised and transparent.