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Times of India
04 May 2010
Chennai, India

For over eight months, senior scientists and doctors across the country have been restless. The Rs 670–crore ambitious project to formulate Indian parameters to redefine prevention and treatment for various diseases and disorders, called the Indian National Clinical Laboratory Parameters (INCLAP) study, has been caught in a “bureaucratic muddle”.

On Tuesday, when the expert committee meets in Delhi, scientists are hoping they would clear the decks for the pilot study in six states.

“The project was in principle approved. It was forwarded to a five–member expert committee. They wanted us to network with medical colleges for data collection. We were asked to identify the colleges for the pilot study where we would be screening 3,000 people. What needs to be done in two days has taken several weeks,” said PM Bhargava, former member of the National Knowledge Commission, who is spearheading the study, here on Monday. So far more than 30 meetings have been completed.

The study, he said, would change the treatment profiles for various diseases. For example, haemoglobin is considered normal if it is above 11 gm/dl (grams per decilitre). “But many Indian women are normal even if it is below 10 gm/dl. They are needlessly being prescribed iron tablets,” he said. Many Indians, he said, could be declared sick when they are not and many may not being warned in time about illnesses in the absence of India–specific indices.

The government had agreed with doctors about the need to evolve normal values for as many as 276 lab parameters including hypertension, diabetes, kidney and liver function tests, haemoglobin, cholesterol and body mass index. In the last four years, experts meticulously chalked out an action plan for the study. The project, if it succeeds, would be the largest epidemiological study ever done. “If the pilot study is completed, we would know what should be the sample size for the project and if we should revise logistics. The ambulances to collect samples were supposed to roll out several weeks ago, and we were to have the preliminary data in six months,” he said.

After the committee approves the project, the file has to be moved to ICMR’s Biomedical Research Board and Planning Commission for their clearance.

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