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HomeOpinionsA short history of big Pharma colonialism in India (Part I)

A short history of big Pharma colonialism in India (Part I)

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It may surprise you that the pharmaceutical industry is not always motivated purely by a high purpose of discovering new drugs to protect humanity from diseases and viruses. This article will focus on the dark side of the pharmaceutical industry—an industry that many believe to be among the most corrupt of all industries.

Critics have often described the machinations of Big Pharma in developing countries as “Pharma-Colonialism”, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. argues that Africa (and other regions in the Global South) have been a “Pharma colony for over a century”. We will look at a few examples of Big Pharma colonialism in India. Many of the cases described below are documented in Robert F. Kennedy’s excellent book The Real Anthony Fauci.

Clinical drug trials

The main source of income for the pharmaceutical industry is the sale of drugs, which are often of dubious benefit to the consumer. Before a drug can be marketed, it has to undergo clinical trials. Pharmaceutical drugs can have very severe side-effects, and it is not surprising that taking part in clinical drug trials is a big risk.

Drug trials are exported to the Global South which serve as a cost-effective location where pharmaceutical companies can avoid strict regulations.

Big Pharma has used India as a dumping ground for their clinical trials with highly dangerous products. The mainstream media does sometimes report that Indians are used as “human guinea pigs” to undergo trials with drugs that can be lethal or lead to permanent injuries. They are paid a pittance, some brainwashed Indians even participate in these studies because they believe it is “a humanitarian effort”.

These drug trials are often deadly. At least a few thousand “human guinea pigs” have died, many more injured. Linsey McGoey reports:

Since 2005, the number of clinical trials in India has ballooned to 1,600 studies involving over 150,000 research subjects. Health campaigners in India have mounted a vigorous campaign calling for stricter regulation of an industry that has seen over 2,000 research participants die between 2007 and 2013. … India’s health minister recently reported to the Indian parliament that to date, less than twenty-five family members have received compensation from foreign drug companies for loss of life. Families received an average of about $3,000 per individual – a pittance.

Linsey McGoey – No Such Thing as a Free Gift. The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy (2015)

The corruption is pervasive. A parliamentary panel report found all parties involved of gross ethical violations — the ministry, Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and those who conducted the clinical trials.

And it has been getting worse. In 2005, India relaxed its laws governing drug trials, and multinational pharmaceutical companies have been keen to take advantage of the new legal situation.

Corruption

A study from India has found that nearly 98 percent of doctors in the country have been influenced by promotional activities from Big Pharma companies. This means that the prescriptions they have given to their patients were influenced by Big Pharma marketing.

According to the Medical Council of India, there exist codes that govern the profession that prohibits them from accepting bribes but unfortunately less than 20% of doctors abide by the ethical codes prescribed by the MCI, and the union government led by PM Modi has planned a surgical strike on this nexus.

Medications from Ayurvedic traditional medicine are slandered and marginalized by Big Pharma and their shills in media and academia, because they may not be patentable and only generate low profits. Ayurvedic medicine, which has not been corrupted by either patents or profit-maximising capitalism, is designed to cure the root causes of diseases rather than simply use “one size fits all” pharmaceutical drugs to keep the symptoms under control.

Big Pharma is also busy in India with identifying the active ingredients in Ayurvedic treatments, so they can patent those molecules. Then they can use trade agreements and political pressure to extract royalties from Indian doctors for using these “new” Big Pharma medications.

Pollution and environmental damage

Activities of the pharmaceutical industry in India have been linked to pollution and environmental damage, such as to Western companies whose suppliers are polluting water in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

This is Part I of the article. Word Virus is a writer on politics and the pharmaceutical industry.

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