Adulterated antibiotics caused Bilaspur tragedy?


After the revelation of gross negligence, unhygienic conditions and money making sterilization camps in news reports and by activists, Chhattisgarh Health Department point the finger at contaminated medicines as the cause of deaths of 13 tribal women in Bilaspur

By Team FI

The preliminary enquiry conducted by the Chhattisgarh Health Department into the death of 13 women after undergoing sterilization procedure at a camp in the Bilaspur district of Chattisgarh has revealed the presence of zinc phosphide in the medicines given to the women.

The Health department sources said autopsy reports of victims support claims by inquiry committee members that contaminated medicines might have been the cause of deaths, mainly painkiller Brufen and antibiotic Ciprofloxacin. Sources said toxin traces, which led to organ failure, were found in blood samples of the victims. However, no one from the health department or the hospital was willing to comment on record. The Chhattisgarh government on Wednesday banned sale of six medicines that were used in health camps.

On November 8th, at a government run medical camp in Nemi-Chand Hospital, Pendari, Dr R K Gupta performed 83 tubectomy operations in an hour. This number was probably added to doctor’s spectacular record of having performed 50,000 surgeries in his career, a feat that earned him a Republic Day award this year by the Health Minister Amar Agarwal. Within a day, reports of women falling sick had begun to come in. Even as deaths were being reported, a second camp was held on Monday where similar operations were performed. By the end of the week, 13 women had died from operations conducted at Pendari, Takhtapur and Marwahi and 138 women were ailing.

Though Dr R K Gupta was arrested on Wednesday following reports of gross negligence and unhygienic conditions, the Chhattisgarh Health Department’s inquiry committee had begun to point the finger at contaminated medicines. As per news reports, the blame was laid on the medicines prescribed to the women post treatment namely prescribed Brufen and the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin and the government had banned the sale of all the medicines that were being used at these camps.

A number of inquiries have been directed at the incident with the Chattisgarh High Court has issued notices to the Medical Council of India, and the Centre and State authorities asking them to respond within 10 days; the NHRC has issued notice to the state government and the state government itself has appointed a one-member judicial commission to investigate the tragedy.

The denials have also begun. Dr Bhange, the Chief Medical Officer of Bilaspur, who has been suspended since, claims to have no notion about the family planning camp in Pendari. The IMA has laid the blame squarely on the ‘defective’ medicines and stated that the doctors involved were being made the scapegoats. The pharmaceutical company, Mahavar Pharma Limited, which supplied the antibiotics, is also under investigation. The Chhattisgarh government has also denied involvement in the second camp that was held, dubbing it as a ‘money making’ racket, according to news reports.

Botched sterilization procedures conducted by the government have resulted in 675 deaths between 2008 and March 2012, as according to a news report, a figure submitted by the Ministry of Health to the Lok Sabha in 2012.

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