Sun, 04 Nov 2007 01:50 CST
For further reading, we recommend "Out of control: AIDS and the corruption of medical science"
by Celia Farber, which has been published in the March 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine. Ms. Farber provides ample evidence that experimenting on unsuspecting people has become a standard in drug manufacturing:
**America is a place where people rarely say: Stop. Extreme and unnatural things happen all the time, and nobody seems to know how to hit the brakes. In this muscular, can-do era, we are particularly prone to the seductions of the pharmaceutical industry, which has successfully marketed its ever growing arsenal of drugs as the latest American right. The buzzword is "access," which has the advantage of short-circuiting the question of whether the drugs actually work, and of utterly obviating the question of whether they are even remotely safe. This situation has had particularly tragic ramifications on the border between the class of Americans with good health insurance, who are essentially consumers of pharmaceutical goods, and those without insurance, some of whom get drugs "free" but with a significant caveat attached: They agree to be experimented on.
These people, known in the industry as "recruits," are pulled in via doctors straight from clinics and even recruited on the Internet into the pharmaceutical industry and the government's web of clinical trials, thousands of which have popped up in recent years across the nation and around the world. Such studies help maintain the industry's carefully cultivated image of benign concern, of charity and progress, while at the same time feeding the experimental factories from which new blockbuster drugs emerge.
"I call them what they are: human experiments
," says Vera Hassner Sharav, of the Alliance for Human Research Protection in New York City. "What's happened over the last ten to fifteen years is that profits in medicine shifted from patient care to clinical trials, which is a huge industry now
. Everybody involved, except the subject, makes money on it, like a food chain. At the center of it is the NIH, which quietly, while people weren't looking, wound up becoming the partner of industry.
By June 2004, the National Institutes of Health had registered 10,906 clinical trials in ninety countries. The size of these trials, which range from the hundreds to more than 10,000 people for a single study, creates a huge market for trial participants, who are motivated by different factors in different societies but generally by some combination of the promise of better health care, prenatal care, free "access" to drugs, and often - especially in the United States - cash payments.
Participating doctors, whose patient-care profits have been dwindling in recent years because of insurance-company restrictions, beef up their incomes by recruiting patients." **
Additionally, many pharmaceutical companies take their clinical trials to developing countries because of lesser costs, more lenient laws and the availability of participants, for whom even the unproven drugs represent a major improvement over the standard of care they receive at local hospitals. That often turns deadly, as it was in a recent case of children in a Russian orphanage who died from an experimental measles vaccine. The manufacturer of the vaccines, a Belgian company, suffered no penalty.