© AFP Photo/STRIndian heart patient Niranjan Lal Pathak (R) poses with his wife Bhankali Pathak at his residence in Indore. Many poor people in India like Niranjan are unwittingly taking part in clinical trials for drugs by Indian and multinational pharmaceutical companies.
New Delhi: Niranjan Lal Pathak couldn't believe his luck initially. When a doctor at a hospital in central India offered the factory watchman free treatment for a heart complaint, he jumped at the chance.
It was five years ago and the family of the 72-year-old says he didn't realise that the Maharaja Yashwantrao Hospital in the city of Indore was about to enroll him in a trial of an untested drug.
"We were told that our uncle will be treated under a special project," his nephew Alok Pathak told AFP over the phone from Indore, the largest city of Madhya Pradesh state.
"The doctor said we wouldn't have to spend a penny. There was only one condition placed before us -- that we should not approach local chemists if we ever ran out of his medicines but go straight to the doctor," he said.
A petition filed by the family in India's Supreme Court alleges that the drug tested on him was Atopaxar, developed by Japan-based pharmaceutical company Eisai and supposed to treat anxiety disorders.
His family and health rights group Swasthya Adhikaar Manch (Health Rights Platform) say that he would never have enrolled for the trial had he known that an untested drug would be administered.
The family also claims that the side-effects of the drug left Pathak suffering from dementia.
"He barely recognises us. His life is finished and so are our hopes to see him healthy and happy again," Alok told AFP, his voice choked with emotion.