India’s HPV vaccination project inquiry: Is the investigation committee truly independent?

Women in India and the rest of the world
want answers about HPV vaccines.

April 14, 5:32 PMVaccines ExaminerNorma Erickson

India has chosen S. P. Agarwal, former Director-General of Health Services; Sunita Mittal, head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences; and Pharmacologist, Ranjit Roy to serve as the panel of investigators charged with examining alleged violations of guidelines for conducting ‘clinical trials’, inadequate research, false advertising, along with various moral and ethical concerns in connection with a recent ‘demonstration project’ involving HPV vaccines.

The demonstration project was conducted by PATH International (an NGO), in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and two state governments. Merck and GlaxoSmithCline agreed to supply the HPV vaccines to be used. Project funding was received from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Concerns have already surfaced as to whether the three people chosen can actually conduct an impartial investigation. Is it possible for a retired government official, a practicing physician and a practicing pharmacist to impartially review their peers and/or supervisors conduct without bias?

Any reasonable and prudent person would see it could be difficult at best, if not downright impossible. After all, some of the individuals being investigated may supervise the investigators during their normal working day.(See related article from The Hindu Press here.)

Considering the fact that this committee is dealing with alleged violations of ethical guidelines by government officials and institutions and medical organizations, it would be wise for the committee to include representatives from the public health sector and/or some of the members of the health advocacy groups responsible for bring the concerns to light in the first place.

Although India is to be commended for their prompt response to citizen concerns, they need to remember the whole world is watching this drama unfold.

No matter what the eventual out come of the investigation is, every effort must be made to assure women around the world that the investigation is both thorough, unbiased and impartial. At least half of the investigating committee should be people who have no ties (current or past) to government, or pharmaceutical companies.

When the issue at hand involves the health and safety of children and young women versus the financial interests of pharmaceutical companies, citizens of the world will not accept anything that even remotely appears to cover-up the facts.



Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.