The Kerala government has instituted an inquiry into allegations that the Trivandrum-based Regional Cancer Centre has been conducting unethical
clinical trials on poor cancer patients in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
Dr Purvish Parikh, professor of the medical oncology department, Tata Memorial Hospital, Bombay, will probe whether the RCC and the JHU have been using cancer patients as guinea pigs to test M4N, a controversial drug banned in the US.
Dr Parikh is a well-known expert in the field of cancer care.
Kerala's Health Minister P Sankaran said Dr Parikh will inquire whether the banned drug was used on cancer patients. He said the government had decided to appoint an expert outside the state to ensure that the probe was impartial.
"We have been told that the US government is also investigating whether the Johns Hopkins researchers exported the banned drug to India with the approval of the Food and Drugs Administration or not," Sankaran told rediff.com
According to the allegation, first raised by Dr V N Bhattathiri, the head of RCC's radio-biology department, M4N, developed by Johns Hopkins for experimental trials, is being used for human trials at the RCC. The drug is said to have been used on some two dozen cancer patients.
"Clinical trials of M4N were conducted on rats and cultured tumour cells in the US. But the trials were soon abandoned some years back when the drug was found to be stimulating cancer cells in patients rather than suppressing them," Dr Bhattathiri told rediff.com
RCC director Dr M Krishnan Nair, who first claimed that the drugs used for human trials were for the benefit of the patients, later said he was unsure whether M4N was banned in the US.
However, the state human rights commission on Monday asked Dr Nair to depose before it on August 13 to explain why the institute used a banned drug on cancer patients.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Monday that the Johns Hopkins University had launched a probe on a faculty member, Professor Ru Chih Huang, at whose initiative M4N was tested on patients in Kerala.
Professor Huang, who is expected to arrive in Kerala next week, has claimed that the drug worked exceedingly well during the trials on patients.
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