The Indian Supreme Court has sought answers from the government in a case involving tribal children, who were allegedly inducted into a drug trial without their consent years ago, and died because of the consequent reactions. The court criticised inaction on the government’s part and gave it a month’s time to respond.
Some children out of a group of selected children died after being injected with Merck’s Gardasil vaccine. The vaccine is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
According to some campaigners, a study, promoted by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, failed to obtain consent from children or their parents before they were administered with the drug. The allegations, if proved, would mean that the drug companies conducted an illegal drug trial on the children.
The petitioners also asked judges to look into the way trials were conducted with Merck’s new cervical cancer vaccine, Gardasil 9. Research by MailOnline, revealed that some children showed abnormal symptoms after they were administered the drug. Gardasil 9, is expected to generate £1.2 billion a year in sales.
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had in 2010, asked state governments to suspend the cervical cancer control vaccination programme for girls after four deaths and complications among 120 girls were reported. The girls complained of stomach disorders, epilepsy, headaches and early menarche.
An investigation by an Indian parliamentary committee had previously concluded that the trials amounted to a serious breach of trust and medical ethics. Merck and GSK have both been ordered to respond to the allegations made by campaigners.
After taking into consideration the arguments from campaigners, the judges also ordered the government to produce an opinion on the issue of liability and compensation, which was welcomed by lawyers.
Speaking to Daily Mail, Kerry McBroom, one of the lawyers, said, ‘It is a very encouraging development that the judges are now discussing accountability and not just accountability but also compensation, so the tone of the hearing today was very positive for us because it’s clear from all the parties, including from government reports, that there were, at best, serious irregularities and, at worst, gross violations of fundamental human rights.’
The court expressed its unhappiness that the government had not come out with concrete action following the parliamentary committee’s findings. It gave the government a month to explain what action had been taken to investigate and what efforts had been made to obtain the consent of those taking part in the trials.
Gardasil is a drug that is used to prevent cervical cancer, which is the second most common type of cancer in women and kills more than 265,000 people every year according to Cancer Research UK.