[op-ed snap] J&J case is a step in the right direction, finally

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Central Drugs Standard Control Organization

Mains level: The long road of justice for people seeking compensation and changes required in the system


Context

Compensation to victims of faulty implants

  1. India made a big stride in compensation, a critical appraisal in terms of various aspects of human life
  2. The government announced that the patients fitted with faulty hip implants supplied by pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson Pvt. Ltd (J&J) be compensated between ₹30 lakh and ₹1.23 crore, along with an additional ₹10 lakh paid towards non-pecuniary damages
  3. This is by far the highest ever compensation announced for a living human being in India
  4. The compensation amount would set a precedent for future cases of medical negligence to be paid to patients in case of injury caused by “faulty” medical devices

Previous cases of neglect

  1. Decades ago, on the intervening night of 2-3 December 1984, a highly toxic chemical made its way into and around the small towns located near the Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal exposing more than 500,000 people to the deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC)
  2. In 1989, the Supreme Court ordered UCIL to cough up ₹750 crore for the tragedy touted as the “world’s worst industrial disaster”
  3. That sum was to be distributed among the 105,000 people affected by the leakage of MIC gas, including 3,000 dead and 102,000 injured
  4. There is no disputing that in India, compensation for death or disability arising from the fault of others is paltry
  5. Life in India is obviously much cheaper than in developed nations

More changes coming up

  1. The government is now contemplating changes in the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, to make pharmaceutical companies liable to pay compensation for injuries and damage caused to consumers by their products, including drugs and medical devices
  2. The Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, the national regulatory body for Indian pharmaceutical and medical device makers, has proposed changes in the existing law to introduce a compensation provision for approved drugs and medical devices that have an adverse impact on a patient
  3. Once this becomes law, it would have large implications, not the least of which is that affected parties will not be given the runaround for the compensation as it would become mandatory for the company or entity concerned to make the payment

Way forward

  1. Indians have always felt powerless, doubting if progress will ever be made in getting a fair compensation in such cases
  2. The right of the victim for compensation has suffered in India but with the J&J case, India has definitely set a new precedent
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.
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