Chhattisgarh sterilisation tragedy: 14 deaths later, the buck passing begins, probe on

Under the guidelines, a doctor cannot conduct more than 10 such surgeries in a day.

Written by Ashutosh Bhardwaj | Raipur | Updated: November 14, 2014 8:38:58 am
doctor R K Gupta, the doctor who did the surgeries, has been arrested. (Source: Reuters)

Five days and 14 deaths later, as the Chhattisgarh government cracked down on drug manufactures who supplied “medicines of suspicious quality” for the laparoscopic tubectomies in Bilaspur, the blame game has begun in the health department, with officials giving different accounts on the use and purchase of these medicines.

Meanwhile, the state government on Thursday dismissed Dr R K Gupta, who conducted the operations and was arrested late on Wednesday night, and Bilaspur CMO R K Bhange. On January 26 this year, it had awarded Dr Gupta for carrying out a record 50,000 tubectomies.

The government also ordered a judicial probe into the deaths. Under the guidelines, a doctor cannot conduct more than 10 such surgeries in a day. Gupta did 83 tubectomies in just five hours at the Takhatpur camp in Bilaspur on Saturday.

The government on Wednesday banned four drugs — an antiseptic lotion, anesthetic injection Lidocaine Hydrochloride, tablets Ibuprofen and Ciprofloxacin. While it is yet to be established that these medicines caused the deaths, it has emerged that they were manufactured by small-scale producers, not reputed pharma companies. The department headed by Health Minister Amar Agarwal was responsible for the purchase of the medicines.

A day after the ban, the Food and Drug Controller on Thursday raided a manufacturer, Mahawar Pharma Pvt Ltd. The company has a small factory in a residential colony of Raipur, which does not even have a notice board giving its name or its operations. It produced Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic given after the surgeries.

Both Gupta and Bhange accused the government of shielding those who are actually guilty. “I have not done anything wrong. We were supplied spurious medicines. The Health Minister is responsible. I am being made the scapegoat,” said Gupta, who is in judicial custody.
“Ciprofloxacin seized from the spot had October 2014 manufacturing date, whereas the ones I purchased are of September 2014. I don’t know how the other medicine reached the camp. I didn’t purchase it,” said Bhange.

The health department is supposed to purchase medicines after inviting tenders and examining the drugs. In urgent cases, the CMO also has a reserved quota to purchase from the open market.

The manufacturers put the onus on the government.

“We never sell directly to the government. We sell in the open market to drug traders, who later supply it to various agencies. This antibiotic is sold at many places and consumed by people. We have never received any complaint. How is it that it showed these results only at the government camp?” said Mahavar Pharma Pvt Ltd in a statement.

“They test the stock even before paying for it, payments are made only after our drugs are tested. I sold it around two years back. If there was any problem or complaint, it would have emerged by now,” said a statement from Hisar-based Regain Laboratories, which manufactured the anesthetic injection.

Meanwhile, the condition of over 20 women continues to be serious. A team of 16 specialist doctors has reached Raipur to assist the doctors treating the women.

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