Bhopal gas victims getting sub-standard drugs: NGOs

The Hindu, December 15, 2006

“Criminal neglect of medical care by State Government”

BHOPAL: Four non-government organisations working here among the victims of the Union Carbide gas disaster of 1984 and ground water contamination have alleged after conducting raids on Wednesday on two medical stores of the Madhya Pradesh Gas Relief Department that a large number of expired and substandard drugs are being used for treatment of the gas victims.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, representatives of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha, Bhopal Group for Information and Action, and Bhopal ki Aawaaz condemned the State Government saying that it had shown “criminal neglect” towards medical care of the victims.
Upon raiding two medical stores of the Gas Relief Department, they found a large number of expired and substandard drugs, charged the activist leaders, accusing the State Government of deliberately causing harm to the victims of Union Carbide.
Of 83 samples of medicines collected from the store, 30 were found to have crossed their expiry date.
Many of these expired medicines were antibiotics such as Norfloxacin, Ampicillin and Tetracyclin and steroids such as Prednisolone that could cause serious damage to people’s health.
More than half of the samples collected were of medicines manufactured in Indore, the activists said.
According to them, three Indore firms that are among the largest suppliers of drugs to the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation Department have been found to be producing substandard drugs by the Drug Controller of Rajasthan this year.
In fact, two truckloads of medicines from two of these companies were being unloaded at the office of the Chief Medical Officer when the citizens’ raid took place.
The leaders said they had been campaigning against the poor quality of medicines at hospitals meant for gas victims for many years.
They alleged large-scale corruption and said the issue of poor quality of medicines had even been brought before the Supreme Court by the Monitoring Committee in October 2005 when the Committee had recommended that random samples of medicines be taken and sent for testing at reputed labs.
According to the activist leaders, the State Government has not sent any medicine sample for quality testing so far. On October 5 this year the representatives of the four survivors’ organisations had raised the issue of “poor quality medicines” at the meeting of the Coordination Committee on Bhopal (CCB) that has been set up on the directives of the Prime Minister.
At this meeting, attended by a Secretary to the State Government, the Director of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy Relief and Rehabilitation and the Chief Medical Officer (Gas Relief), they had presented a list of 22 medicines from the medical store of Khan Shakir Ali Khan Hospital for investigation.
The activist leaders, Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla of Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh, Shahid Noor of Bhopal ki Aawaaz, Rachna Dhingra and Satinath Sarangi of Bhopal Group for Information and Action told media persons that they would go on an indefinite fast to put pressure on the State Government on issues of medical care, employment, social rehabilitation and environmental remediation.
They said that the fast, to coincide with the New Year, would be for a new beginning in relief and rehabilitation of the victims of Union Carbide disaster.

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