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Wednesday
Mar212012

Indian medical scams

There are a lot of excellent clinicians in India, struggling to provide top level medical treatment under resource-constrained conditions. Listening to the work of Dr Revathi Raj at Apollo Speciality Hospital in Chennai was inspirational, the work they do under such limitations is amazing. The financial constraints cut both ways, with equipment and medicines limiting in the hospitals, and with much of the population unable to afford even a basic level of care. India runs on private health care, which kills the rural poor, especially young girls. A poor rural family will use up a substantial proportion of their income on a single doctor's visit, so they tend to wait far too long to see a professional. If the sick family member is a young girl, they tend to wait even longer - a death sentence in serious cases, and part of the reason why the sex ratio is reversed in India compared to Europe. Access to medicines is higher, because generics are allowed even for medicines under patent in the rest of the world and no prescriptions are required. But quality is variable due to under-regulation of the generic industry and self-prescription has created an enormous problem in drug-resistance.

 

Under these conditions, unsafe alternative practices have sprung up, such as this street in Delhi where "dentists" sit by the side of the road and wait for customers. We saw one customer visit and receive the only treatment available - sit on this stool why I pull your sore tooth out with a pair of pliers.


At least these patients where getting some treatment, even if it resulted in many toothless grins. Other street practioners are simply scam artists, such as this street rekki I saw in Chandigarh:

 
Homeopathic clinics were especially rife, setting up shop all over Delhi and scamming people too poor for real medicine.

Even normal pharmacies stocked large shelves full of junk like this:

It makes me especially angry when fake medicines sit on a shelf next to real medicines, picking up credibility by association. A pharmacist is meant to be a medical professional providing a service, when they sell fake drugs they show themselves to be unconcerned about the welfare of their customers, and concerned only with their wallet.

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