Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In Case You Have Missed It...

...I have big problems with Big Pharma and the ethics being used to drive their industry. In their search for increased profit taking, they have turned to third world countries not only for a cheaper workforce but also because the regulations governing testing of drugs is more lax. This allows them to get away with things like the following:

Sun Pharmaceuticals convinced doctors to prescribe Letrozole, a breast cancer drug, to more than 400 women as a fertility treatment in a covert clinical trial -- and used the results to promote the drug for the unapproved use. This reminds me of a story that I heard on CBC radio's science show, Quirks and Quarks a few years ago where the WHO went into a South American country and under the guise of providing vaccines against disease, actually vaccinated women against pregnancy without their consent.

and ...

"Doctors are easier to recruit for trials because they don't have to go through the same ethics procedures as their Western colleagues," Ecks said. "And patients ask fewer questions about what is going on."

Also, critics say study volunteers may be taking risks without the potential for reward. Since many pharmaceutical companies are developing the drugs for markets in industrialized nations, it is unlikely that India's poor will have access to most of the new medicine.

You needn't reserve all your moral outrage for India's poor. Big Pharma is willing to stick it to the poor in North America as well. SFBC International has a 675 bed facility in Miami that has been recruiting undocumented Latinos who are desperate for money, and is paying them to take untested drugs in studies overseen by an unlicensed medical director whose degree comes from an offshore medical school in the Caribbean.

I don't know if any of my readers invest money in Big Pharma as part of their stock portfolio, but if you do, maybe it is time to seek a more ethical way of making money, no?

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