Posted on July 21, 2004

‘Indians Popping Pills Meant For Whites’

C. Shamsher, Times of India, Jul. 20

CHANDIGARH: The department of biotechnology, Panjab University, has taken up cudgels against “medical hegemony” of the West. Earlier, Indian were used as “guinea pigs”, but now a fusillade of drugs meant to treat population of Caucasian descent is being fired on Indian patients.

Since most of the research and development takes place in the West, drugs developed hence are prescribed to Indians too, without sparing a thought that gene-specific medicines developed for Whites will be ineffective on Indians.

A study conducted by Prof RC Sobti, head of the department of biotechnology, and his student Siddharth Sharma on impact of drugs on lung cancer patients suggests that the medicines being prescribed to Indian patients are not gene-specific.

Reason: medicines given to Indians are suitable for patients having Caucasian genes. And this is done presuming that Indians belong to Caucasian race and came from Central Asia at some point of time.

Others in his group are conducting studies on effect of medicines on cancers of gastro-intestinal tract, upper respiratory tract, oesophagus, prostrate and cervix.

Overwhelmed Prof Sobti says, “We have to develop new drugs for our people. Patients do not respond well to medicines which are made keeping in mind other genes.”

“We have not done enough research in pharmaco-genomics, in which one studies impact of medicines on a specific gene and how differently does it react on different genes.” Prof Sobti, who is at present taking samples of patients from hospitals, says. “We need people in thousands to know how our genes are different.

We have written to the government and are waiting for a reply.”