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Indians Not Guinea Pigs for Cervical Cancer Caccines

Times of India
23 April 2010
New Delhi, India

Expert Panel To Find Efficacy And Safety Of Drug‚ Says Govt
Indians not guinea pigs for cervical cancer vaccines
  • Health ministry has constituted a committee of experts to find the efficacy and safety of the drug
  • However, Brinda Karat doubts the composition of the committee. Demands that eminent experts on medicine should be part of the panel
  • Health minister rejects the charge that guidelines have been violated and pointed out that the vaccines were being used in over 100 countries, including US and UK
  • In India, more than 1.32 lakh women suffer from cervical cancer and 76,000 died in 2008
The health ministry on Thursday forcefully denied the allegation levelled by the opposition that Indian girls are being used as guinea pigs for anti­cervical cancer vaccines. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad‚ replying to a calling attention notice in the Rajya Sabha‚ said use of HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines imported by Merck and CERVARIX (manufactured by GSK) have been stopped in the country.

The ministry has also constituted a committee of experts to find the efficacy and safety of the drug‚ following apprehension that the death of four girls in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat had any connection with the vaccine. “Although prima facie there does not appear to be a connection between the deaths and the vaccination‚ for our satisfaction and to allay the apprehensions the states have been advised not to carry out any further vaccinations till further orders‚” Azad said.

He rejected the charge that guidelines had been violated and pointed out that the vaccines were being used in over 100 countries‚ including US and UK. These two countries have even included them in their national immunisation programme. The two HPV vaccines (GARDASIL) were allowed for clinical trial in the country in accordance with the Drugs and Cosmetics Act‚ 1940‚ and these are available in the market.

However‚ a US­based NGO‚ PATH‚ was granted permission to carry out an operational research on these vaccinations in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh and Vadodara in Gujarat. In India‚ more than 1.32 lakh women suffer from the disease and 76‚000 died in 2008. “Given the gravity of the disease‚ could India afford not to allow use of a vaccine just because it has been dismissed in certain quarters‚” Azad asked.

He‚ however‚ assured the members that Indian girls would not be allowed to be used as guinea pigs for clinical trials and the vaccine would be used only after clearance of the panel. Initiating the debate‚ Brinda Karat (CPM) doubted the composition of the committee and demanded that eminent experts on medicine should be part of the panel.

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