Congress leader Rahul Gandhi demanded Saturday a "thorough probe" into the deaths of 13 women undergoing sterilisation surgery as local media alleged the victims were treated with antibiotics contaminated with rat poison.
Police announced Friday the arrests of the head of a drug manufacturing company and his son on suspicion of destroying evidence in the cases of the women who died in central India after the sterilisation operations.
"This isn't just a case of negligence but a case of corruption, of fake drugs which is the responsibility of the government," said Gandhi, scion of the Congress party dynasty which suffered a crushing defeat in recent national elections.
Counterfeit or adulterated medicines are a significant health problem in the country, as well as for buyers of India's drugs abroad, with the World Health Organization calculating as many as one in five drugs made in India might be spurious.
"The first thing that needs to be done is a thorough probe of what happened here," Gandhi added in televised remarks in the district of Bilaspur in central Chhattisgarh state where the deaths occurred.
Earlier an analysis by Hindustan Times of the antibiotic tablet administered to the victims Ciprofloxacin 500 revealed the medicine was adulterated with zinc phosphide, a chemical used in rat poison.
The drug had been seized from Raipur-based pharmaceutical company Mahawar Pharma on Thursday and has been sent for further tests.
Officials said a significant quantity of burnt medicines was found on the premises.
The symptoms shown by the women who became unwell after undergoing botched sterilizations is similar to how the body reacts to zinc phosphide, doctors in Bilaspur said.
After the surgery, the women had complained of nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. The 13 died of cardiac arrest, kidney failure and respiratory breakdown. “Such a chemical results in high mortality,” health officials stated.
“We have conducted raids across the state and seized over 43 lakh similar tablets prepared by Mahawar Pharma,” Bilaspur commissioner Sonmoni Borah told HT.
Mahawar Pharma director Ramesh Mahawar and his son Sumit were arrested by Raipur police on Friday.