Deepening the mystery over what led to INX Media co-founder Indrani Mukerjea’s collapse inside the Byculla prison, JJ Hospital Dean T P Lahane claimed on Sunday that this was not a case of drug overdose. Relying on the Forensic Science Laboratory’s (FSL), Lahane said her blood samples did not show excessively high levels of Etizolam or Mirtazapine.
While Etizolam belongs to the Benzodiazepine class of drugs that are used as an anxiolytic — medication to curb anxiety — Mirtazapine is a new class of anti-depressant that is generally used for depressed patients with significant sleep problems. Indrani was reportedly prescribed Etizolam (0.5 mg) and Mirtazapine (7.5 mg).
About Mukerjea’s medical condition, the hospital dean said she was conscious and out of danger. Stating that Mukerjea was drowsy and consuming liquids, Lahane said she might be discharged within the next 48 hours following consultations with psychiatrists at the state-run JJ Hospital. Her statement on the circumstances surrounding her collapse in jail would be recorded soon, sources said.
On October 2, Mukerjea had collapsed inside the Byculla jail. Doctors later confirmed that she was on medication for depression and epilepsy and had been taking drugs since September 11.
While tests on urine samples taken at the JJ Hospital on Saturday had shown excessive quantity of drugs, doctors claimed on Sunday that it was possible for two samples taken from a patient with an interval of two hours to yield different results.
In Mukerjea’s case, urine samples were sent for tests and blood samples were sent later to the FSL.
“It is quite possible that toxins had passed on into the urine which reported excessive quantities of drug, while the blood had little quantity left,” said a senior doctor from the psychiatry department at JJ Hospital.
The urine test had also confirmed that choline esterage in the samples was normal, ruling out opium poisoning.
“We treated the patient, Indrani, for overdose of drugs based on the preliminary report by the Hinduja Hospital. However, the final report by the FSL, called the Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMC), clears that there was no overdose of drug substance. It is negative. Our treatment was based on clinical findings,” said Lahane.
The Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GCMC) report is an analytical report that can trace materials that were earlier considered disintegrated beyond identification.
“An adult dose (of Etizolam) varies from 0.5mg to maximum of 2 mg. The side effects are rare. If there is an over dosage, it causes drowsiness, nausea, liver problems and vomiting. Only in very high doses can a person suffer from respiratory depression,” an expert said. Mukerjea’s respiratory cycle was lower than usual, at 12 per minute, on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the probe underway at the Byculla jail is yet to yield any additional information. The jail authorities recorded statements of nearly 40 inmates lodged in the same barrack as Mukerjea. In addition, the statements of three prison guards, who had direct access to her along with the prison doctors, will also be recorded shortly.
Special Inspector General (prisons) Bipin Kumar Singh refused to comment on the probe. “A detailed report will be submitted to the government this week,” was all Kumar said.
“While the medical report may state that there was no overdose of drugs, our probe is to find out if all procedures were followed in the prison as per the Maharashtra prison manual,” said a jail official.