Finally, Canada patient blew the cover
NRI ‘found’ R K Gupta’s secret when he began asking basic questions
Posted online: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 at 0228 hours IST
RISHIKESH, AUGUST 23: They lined up before R K Gupta’s Neeraj Clinic in Rishikesh looking for a miracle. He gave them tablets laced with banned drugs and made his millions. For 20 years, self-styled doctor and epilepsy expert Gupta got away because most of his patients were poor and illiterate.
That was until Anjon Chowdhury flew down to India.
It was a journey he had planned for months. All treatments to cure his son of epilepsy had failed. After two years of correspondence, Chowdhury, a non-resident Indian from Canada, decided to take his son to Neeraj Clinic which offered cure for the disease. He, accompanied with his wife and son, arrived in Rishikesh on August 27, 2003.
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‘‘We met with one doctor who asked a few questions. This doctor took a pink pill from a dish of several different coloured pills and handed over to my son without any clarification of what to expect of this pill. The doctor would not give us any information.
‘‘I explained to him that we were informed that my son was to be examined by three doctors. We asked if Dr (B M) Soni and/or Dr Gupta were available, as we had been informed the initial medication would be given by one of these doctors and then three other doctors would assess my son. The doctor informed me none of these doctors was available and that this was all the examination required. He told us to go to the pharmacy on the floor above,’’ Chowdhury later wrote in a complaint filed with the Indian High Commissioner in Canada on October 6, 2003.
ON THE GUPTA TRAIL
• March 9, 2004: On Anjon Chowdhury’s complaint, the Drug Controller takes samples of medicines from Neeraj Clinic, sends them to a Kolkata lab
• April 7, 2004: The report finds traces of phenobarbitone, phenytoin and phensobar—all banned or controlled under the NDPS Act
• April 16, 2004: The Drug Controller files a case with the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate against R K Gupta and 11 others
• May 14, 2004: The Drug Controller moves the NDPS court to seek Gupta’s arrest and an immediate ban on his medical practice. Gupta is also booked for objectionable advertisement under the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, 1954
• August 3, 2004: Armed with two trucks of PAC jawans, 21 sub-inspectors, seven inspectors and one woman inspector, the Drug Controller raids Neeraj Clinic, seizes 200 kg of medicine. Gupta flees
• August 13/14: Gupta surrenders, sent to judicial custody for 12 days.
Chowdhury and his wife were left aghast when a public relations officer in the clinic advised them to buy a two-year supply for Rs 64,000. Asked what the name of the drug was, they were told ‘‘it was a drug with no name.’’ Chowdhury’s wife, a registered nurse, grew suspicious when she was told that the Ayurvedic medicine given by the clinic would react to her son’s medicine (dilantin). The attendant at the clinic was adamant that ‘‘this would cause an overdose when taken with the Ayurveda medicine.’’
That was when the Chowdhurys woke up to the reality of Gupta’s holistic treatment. So they decided to probe a bit. ‘‘During our investigation, we found that different people were charged different prices for the same product depending on what the clinic could extract from them,’’ he said.
With no regulatory authority controlling the affairs of the Neeraj Clinic, the Chowdhurys decided to go back. The cost: they lost the money spent on travel and accommodation in India, his son missed a full semester at college — and the trauma of going through the farce.
When he reached Canada, he wrote to the Indian High Commissioner who routed the complaint to the Ministry of External Affairs. The MEA sent it to Governor Sudarshan Aggarwal and he passed it on to the Drug Controller’s office. That was how Gupta’s countdown began.