© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
A 9 year old child with fits / seizures was taken to a renowned Paediatric Neurologist. He started treatment with one of the most commonly recommended (by almost all textbooks) used medicine in the treatment of seizures: carbamazepine. One of the most effective medicine, used since over 50 years in children, that can cause side effects of rashes in less than 1/1000 cases. Still rarely, the side effects can be very severe, causing extensive damage to the skin.
The doctor explained this to the child’s parents, and then started the recommended doses. Pediatric doctors are the best trained doctors in dose calculation, they are more aware than any other specialty about the side effects in general, because children often cannot even speak and parents may not notice some side effects. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Every medicine has side effects. Even vitamins do. Any medicine can potentially cause life threatening reaction, and that’s why the common warning with each medicine: do not use if you are sensitive to this medicine. How will one know whether there will be any allergy / reaction to the medicine without having used it?
Most medicines can cause side effects at high doses, but some can cause dangerous reactions even with the tiniest dose, or test dose. Some medicines (even the one mentioned above) can cause side effects after many months / years of safe use. While the dose dependent (high dose= higher side effect) side effects are somewhat predictable, the ‘idiosyncratic’ (meaning occurring in individual, not all cases, because of the natural tendency of that person) and “allergic” side effects are totally unpredictable, and can be caused by even such common medicines as paracetamol, aspirin, antibiotics or vitamins. Even deaths have been reported after the use of some common medicines, but even in the highly legalized western world, no court holds doctors guilty for the side effects of medicines, if these were discussed and informed to the patient / family. This is against common sense. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
This child unfortunately developed a rare but well known side effect of this drug, called Stevens Johnson Syndrome (severe skin rashes), had to be admitted and treated, it cost them one lac rupees. While we sympathise with the child and the family, and wish them the best recovery and health, this is hardly the mistake of a doctor.
But the forum, in a regressive decision, held the doctor guilty, fined him 90000 rupees. This is beyond ridiculous. The court observed that “ if the doctor knew that this drug can cause side effects, he should not have prescribed it”. Translated intellectually, that means NO DOCTOR CAN PRESCRIBE ANY MEDICINE! © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Moreover, what will this court advise for the child now? Every seizure medicine has some rare dangerous side effects. There are no medicines free of side effects. Shall the child be left without treatment now? Which doctor will want to treat such a case? Which court will guarantee that the rarest of the rare side effect cannot happen again in this case, and with such ill-informed forums, the next doctor trying to do good to the child will not be held guilty? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Technically, if using a drug that can cause side effects is a crime as per this court, it should hold everyone concerned guilty: the textbooks / medical bodies that recommend this drug, the pharma which produced it, and even the government which allowed it to be sold. Applying the same logic, if some child developed peanut allergy in a hotel or side effects of pollution and dust by travelling on Bangalore roads, will this court hold the hotelier or the city administration guilty and punish them too? Has this forum/ court banned tobacco and alcohol yet, or will it punish the government for the side effects and thousands of deaths caused by these? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande
The IMA, other medical bodies, Neurological society, and intellectuals should stand by this doctor who has suffered the mental agony. This decision must be challenged in higher courts.
We regret that some patients suffer side effects, no one should, but at the same time, the “side effects of medicine” is not the doctor’s fault, especially in this case where he had explained the parents about such possibility.
We need medically educated forums and judges who can refrain from populist tendencies.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
I respect courts. I respect higher courts more. But I refuse to believe that every decision made by every judge is correct, that every decision is impartial, that it is not affected by pressures. This article is solely based upon the attached news clip. I must admit that this reporter Ms. Meghna Singhania has done an excellent and impartial reporting. Doctors must please stand united against this decision.