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Testing Drugs on India's Poor 531

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the pincushion-for-cash dept.
theodp writes to tell us Wired is reporting that a lot of medical research firms are using India's poor as a hot test bed. From the article: "The sudden influx of drug companies to India resembles the gold rush frontier, according to Sean Philpott, managing editor of The American Journal of Bioethics. 'Not only are research costs low, but there is a skilled work force to conduct the trials'"
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Testing Drugs on India's Poor

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  • Wait (Score:4, Funny)

    by nizo (81281) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:44PM (#14293828) Homepage Journal
    So now we are outsourcing the jobs of lab animals [wikipedia.org] to India?? And I shudder to think what the "No Indian testing" [wikipedia.org] label will be in Europe (maybe a big hand patting a meditating guru on the head?)
    • Re:Wait (Score:3, Funny)

      by keezer (918541)
      PeTA ought to be thrilled. If we test on less fortunate human beings, that means fewer animals have to suffer.
      • Re:Wait (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:18PM (#14294145)

        Are you kidding? The unemployment rate for lab rats will skyrocket! How are the poor rats supposed to feed their kids? WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE RAT CHILDREN?

      • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Surt (22457) on Monday December 19, 2005 @06:05PM (#14294532) Homepage Journal
        I think as long as the human animals involved can make an informed choice and aren't physically forced or coerced to participate, PeTA will indeed be thrilled.
        • Re:Wait (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MickLinux (579158) on Monday December 19, 2005 @09:42PM (#14295898) Journal
          Except that though the choice may be semi-informed, it won't be free when the person has a choice between being killed by drugs or killed by starvation (along with their family). There's a reason why India is being targeted. I think I can do without those drugs. Even if not using them shortens my life.
          • Re:Wait (Score:4, Informative)

            by hopethisnickisnottak (882127) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @03:51AM (#14297084) Homepage Journal
            Except that though the choice may be semi-informed, it won't be free when the person has a choice between being killed by drugs or killed by starvation (along with their family).

            What crap!
            Not every poor person in India dies of starvation. Infact, starvation related deaths have gone down significantly.
            And the drugs that are being tested have been approved for human testing by the Indian equivalent of the FDA. Yes, we have institutions that help protect our rights too. It isn't just in your country that people have rights, you know.

            There's a reason why India is being targeted.

            Yeah, and unfortunately you don't know about it.
            India is being 'targeted' because the Indian population shows incredible genetic diversity unavailable anywhere else. This diversity means that with a few test cases, you can test your drugs on someone with a mediterranean genetic makeup, an australoid genetic makeup, a mongoloid genetic makeup etc. and various combinations of the above. It's not just about the money. Otherwise they would go to Chinese prisons.

    • Re:Wait (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Its not funny, but is a grave ethical issue. The poverty is being misused to coerce them into becoming lab animals of which they really don't speculate much because of ignorance and illiteracy. The winners are the multinationals who keep filling their pockets with money.
      • Re:Wait (Score:5, Insightful)

        by advocate_one (662832) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:06PM (#14294040)
        it's as big a scandal as the ships being dissassembled by hand on the beaches of India... and all the surplus PCs being shipped off to be stripped down by hand...

        Corporate pigs shipping work out to places that have NO health and safety laws... all in the name of short term shareholder profits. These bastards have NO ethics... how would they feel if they themselves were on the breadline with no job protection and the only work available being dirty, shit jobs exported from countries that should know better

        • Re:Wait (Score:3, Informative)

          by nizo (81281) *
          'Ship Breaking' [msn.com] is indeed incredibly harsh and toxic work.
        • Re:Wait (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:18PM (#14294152)
          Yeah it's all the corporations fault. If it wasn't for them doctors would go out of their way to make medicines that worked without needing to be tested on animals or humans, right?

          It's interesting to see that the same people who support the ecoterrorism by the Animal Liberation Front which has crippled our ability to test drugs on animals are now complaining about the ethical issues of testing drugs on people in India. If only we lived in one big socialistic world, people wouldn't get sick and need drugs, right?

          It is obviously the corporations fault. Their love of profits make them test life-saving drugs on people instead of doing the decent thing and going out of business (giving their drugs to noone). If only they knew that their profits are what make people sick in the world.
          • Re:Wait (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Cal Paterson (881180)
            "Their love of profits make them test life-saving drugs on people instead of doing the decent thing and going out of business (giving their drugs to noone). If only they knew that their profits are what make people sick in the world."

            Fool. The issue at hand here is that these people are poor and vulnerable. Testing drugs on them is abusive. Maybe you failed to pick up the point that this is exploitation, and without the dehabilitating poverty, these Indians would never consider being part of the resea
          • Re:Wait (Score:3, Funny)

            by kraut (2788)
            > Yeah it's all the corporations fault.

            Damn right it is. Like global warming, it's all down to those greedy capitalists exploiting the environment. Nothing to do with me driving my kid to school in my nice new SUV, is it?
        • Re:Wait (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Sri Ramkrishna (1856)
          Seems to me that the Indian govt is at fault as well. Obviously, health codes and what not needs to be enforced.

          sri
          • Re:Wait (Score:4, Informative)

            by Parham (892904) on Monday December 19, 2005 @06:00PM (#14294489)
            I don't know exactly what the consequences would be, and I have never studied it to know exactly what would happen. However, it seems that if the Indian government were to enforce these laws, then corporations wouldn't be running there in the first place. i think that's a big incentive for them to go overseas - cheap labor, poor to no health laws, etc...

            Correct me if i'm wrong.
        • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

          by IAmTheDave (746256) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ds-evademanesab}> on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:34PM (#14294276) Homepage Journal
          Corporate pigs shipping work out to places that have NO health and safety laws... all in the name of short term shareholder profits. These bastards have NO ethics... how would they feel if they themselves were on the breadline with no job protection and the only work available being dirty, shit jobs exported from countries that should know better

          Yeah, you're right. Without question. But someone's gotta be the first to test a drug. The real problem here is that the drug companies are trying to act without the restrictions of the US. Were they operating under the same restrictions over there, then I really wouldn't have much of a problem here at all, since someone, somewhere, has to be the first.

          The US/FDA COULD refuse to accept or deny the right to sale to any drug that is tested without adhering to the same restrictions/rules that they would have to in the US. Test subjects would still be cheaper, but at least there would be incentive for treating these people decently.

          • Re:Wait (Score:3, Funny)

            by Forbman (794277)
            The US/FDA COULD refuse to accept or deny the right to sale to any drug that is tested without adhering to the same restrictions/rules that they would have to in the US. Test subjects would still be cheaper, but at least there would be incentive for treating these people decently.

            They already do. There are any number of drugs that are available in Europe, Canada, Japan, etc., that haven't been approved by the FDA, and some that have been banned by the FDA.

            You would think that an approved medication in Euro
        • Re:Wait (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jemenake (595948) on Monday December 19, 2005 @08:26PM (#14295482)
          it's as big a scandal as the ships being dissassembled by hand on the beaches of India...
          The only "scandal" I see here is that the living conditions in those areas are so bad that the inhabitants place so little value on their time, health, and life.

          However, when a corporation decides to "shop around" and find the cheapest solution to their problem, I don't see how that's not just a large-scale version of when I go on Froogle to find the cheapest place to get my new DVD burner.

          This whole scenario plays into what economists call "factor price equalization". The idea goes something like this: Let's say you're in the business of manufacturing something (like a car engine or whatnot). You've got all of your manufacturing pieces in place except for one: you need ten thousand washers placed on ten thousand bolts. For doing this job, "Joe American" in Detroit wants $10/hr, plus medical, dental, and vision coverage... and 2 weeks per year paid vacation. Meanwhile, Shankar in India will do the same job for $4/day and requires none of the other benefits.

          Now, if "Joe American" were able to put the washer on the bolt with an expertise, precision, and efficiency that was simply unmatched by Shankar, then there might be a reason to pay him the 20x as much. However, even if there was such a disparity in skill, it would also have to be worth it to you to have the washers put on the bolts with that extra skill.

          Alas, in reality, there is no skill disparity when it comes to tasks as simple as this, so the American worker can offer no advantage to the employer to justify his high price. The "equalization" part of Factor-Price Equalization theory is the observation that, eventually, the prices (in wages and benefits) charged by Joe American and Shankar will equalize. Eventually, increasing competition for Indian labor will drive their price up, while Joe American will finally come to the realization that simply having been born in the USA doesn't make up for the fact that he never finished high-school and he'll face the fact that the value of his labor is much lower than what he was, up until now, able to get away with.

          The lesson is clear: If you want to be well-compensated for your work, you need to be able to do something that... A) few other people can do (ie, low supply), and B) many people want/need done (ie, high demand). This lesson isn't new. It's just that we're now starting to see a decrease in people being able to get away with not heeding it.

          Now, like I said at the outset, the fact that there exist such squalid conditions in India (and countless other parts of the world) might qualify as a travesty (and how is employing these people doing anything but working towards eliminating that?), but... as has been pointed out here numerous times... the hundreds of workers showing up every day don't consider themselves to be exploited. They call it opportunity.
      • Re:Wait (Score:3, Insightful)

        by susano_otter (123650)
        Since when did offering people a bad choice equal "coercion"?

        And why does everybody always assume that poverty equals stupidity?

        For all we know, the vast majority of these test subjects are thinking, "sure, it's a sketchy deal, but in this cruel world a man's gotta make tough choices sometimes. Me? I'm happy to be able to sacrifice my body for the sake of my family's wellbeing. If this were the Stone Age, I wouldn't even have this opportunity."

        It's not like the article gives us any indication that they're
        • Watch my family starve to death or be a research subject, doesn't seem like a tough choice to me. But then again, I wasn't raised to expect anyone but me to take care of me, and my parents never led me to believe that life was fair. Others have a different world view.
  • Ethics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Winckle (870180) <mark@NOSpAm.winckle.co.uk> on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#14293842) Homepage
    "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."
    I can't tell if he's being serious, but if he truly does have no moral qualms about that last statement, then he frightens me.
    • Re:Ethics (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:54PM (#14293919)

      The sad part is, it doesn't really matter. That's the way things are, when you're poor and sick you're willing to try nearly anything. Even experimental drugs. If for no other reason than you can't afford anything else.

      We like to talk about how it sucks our jobs get outsourced to India (and rightfully so, in my eyes), but we have to realize that India is still an incredibly poor country.

    • Re:Ethics (Score:3, Interesting)

      by d.valued (150022)
      This is an old story.. I believe I heard it on NPR more than half a year ago.

      There are certain upsides for the patients. Yes, they're risking their lives for the chance at health, but in return they are at least getting some medical care. If they're lucky some previously unknown ailment will disqualify them from the study, and get them into one which is more appropriate.

      As a lab rat without health insurance, most of my medical care has been through such studies. I get the meds I need to keep on breathing, a
    • I can't tell if he's being serious, but if he truly does have no moral qualms about that last statement, then he frightens me.

      Ethics is something you can either away with in your own mind and/or other people. Even killing a baby to prevent it from crying that would certainly kill a large group of people including the baby can be considered ethical. (Classic ethics "what if" kinda like the silly tree falling in the woods thing).

      I've often wondered who really does human testing of new drugs. There has to b
    • Re:Ethics (Score:3, Insightful)

      by penguinoid (724646)
      I think he is stating a fact, as viewed from the corporations' eyes. If there were no ethical questins, this wouldn't have made the news.
    • ethics procedures as their Western colleagues

      Why do people assume taking ethics courses makes people more ethical. I'm sure Jeffrey Skilling and Ken Lay too ethics courses when they got their MBAs.

      • I'll admit I don't much about MBAs, but I wasn't aware that ethics was any part of it. At least, I've never seen any indication of it.
  • Pff.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by iSeal (854481) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#14293843)
    So first they took away our call centers... Then they took away our IT jobs... Now they're taking our priviledge to test dangerous drugs on the poor and destitute?

    Damn you trained and abled Indian workforce!
    • Re:Pff.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by metternich (888601) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:51PM (#14293888)
      In all seriousness though, it is the US poor who volunteer to praticipate in research studies here too. I have one friend who paid her way through college doing this.
      • Re:Pff.. (Score:5, Funny)

        by Surt (22457) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:13PM (#14294107) Homepage Journal
        I have a (male) friend who did that too. As a bonus he can code faster than anyone I know using his third arm.
      • Re:Pff.. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by elgatozorbas (783538) on Monday December 19, 2005 @08:03PM (#14295351)
        ...it is the US poor who volunteer to praticipate in research studies here too.

        This need not even be a Bad Thing. The janitor in the school where I work participates in medical studies three or four times a year (as much as he is allowed to) and he makes more money than I do. He doesn't suffer a bit from it and if I had more spare time I would consider joining him. Clinical studies are not necessarily dangerous. Sometimes they just want to see if a medicine has side effects, makes you sleepy or so. I don't think they want to find out the mortality rate.

  • outsourcing (Score:4, Funny)

    by jimbolauski (882977) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#14293844) Journal
    I guess India's poor cost less to test on the the US bunny rabbit, I for one can not believe companies would take away jobs from som many bunnies I can't even imagine how bunnies can take care of their large families.
    • Re:outsourcing (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pxtl (151020)
      Please tell me that these posters aren't serious. Why don't we just eat their babies? After all, it will let the Indian poor have a means of useful production and keep their population growth down.
  • No Surprise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ben_white (639603) <[ben] [at] [btwhite.org]> on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#14293845) Homepage
    I find this quite disturbing. I, however, am not surprised. I have been in academic medicine for 15 years, and have seen the requirements for human research change to the point that many clinicians have just given up any hope of being able to practice and participate in meaningful clinical trials due to the exploding amount of red tape. Of course the red tape does serve a purpose; from the article:
    In another incident, 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 type of problem was not terribly uncommon in the past in the US (and I assume other industrialized nations), but is not common now, due to the oversight of clinical trials we have now.
    • Seems to me I remember a fertility treatment called thalidomide....and a bunch of babies born without arms and legs being the reason for that.

      Isn't it amazing how profit creates short memories?
      • Re:No Surprise (Score:5, Informative)

        by ben_white (639603) <[ben] [at] [btwhite.org]> on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:03PM (#14294009) Homepage
        Seems to me I remember a fertility treatment called thalidomide....and a bunch of babies born without arms and legs being the reason for that. Isn't it amazing how profit creates short memories?
        Not a fertility treatment, but a treatment for morning sickness (see here [wikipedia.org]). And interestingly enough, never approved for distribution in the US (until 1998 for leprosy and myeloma).
      • Re:No Surprise (Score:4, Insightful)

        by advocate_one (662832) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:15PM (#14294122)
        Seems to me I remember a fertility treatment called thalidomide....and a bunch of babies born without arms and legs being the reason for that.

        IT was not a fertility treatment... it was prescribed to reduce morning sickness...

        Isn't it amazing how profit creates short memories?

        NOT for me... my brother is one of the victims

  • by op12 (830015) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:46PM (#14293846) Homepage
    FTA: "But in March, everything changed when India submitted to pressure from the World Trade Organization to stop the practice and implement rules that prohibit local companies from creating generic versions of patented drugs."

    WHy do they want to prevent that? What about in the U.S. where we have things like Walgreen's Wal-tussin to compete with Robitussin (same ingredients, cheaper cost for the consumer)? (same with Sudafed, etc.) Does this fall under the kind of thing WTO wants to stop?
    • by slavemowgli (585321) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:53PM (#14293916) Homepage
      Non-cynical answer: the difference is "patented". Robitussin's active ingredient was patented in the 1950s, so the patent has long since run out, and everyone's free to recreate it.

      Cynical answer: the difference is that the USA doesn't want Indian companies to hurt the sales of US-American companies. If it's two US-American companies fighting, the USA as a whole don't lose anything, but if it's foreign companies...

      I think there's some truth in both answers.
      • What these companies try to do is keep high prices even if their labor costs go down in low income regions. To maintain their profits high amid lowered costs they lobby for protective rules that inhibit competition.

        Both the USA and other countries lose from anti-competition rules.
    • In the US, generic versions are created after the patent expires. In India, they have process patents. You can make a Viagaralike drug that's identical to the Pfizer drug as long as you use a different process. It's basically a legal ripoff.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:48PM (#14293865)
    > Wired is reporting that a lot of medical research firms are using India's poor as a hot test bed.

    The Miracle of Birth, Part 2: The Third World

    Mom: Come on, now. Out you go. Now, uh, Dalip, Bhim, Harinder, Ajit, Indra, Mandeep, it is being past your bedtime.
    Kids: Oh, mother!
    Mom: Now, not to be arguing! Lakshmi, Sita, Gita, Surinder...
    Dad: Wait! I have something to be telling whole family.
    Mom: Oh, quick - please to be going and getting the others in, Pradeep.
    Kids: What could it be being?
    Dad: The call center is closed! There is to be no more work. We are now to live among the untouchable.
    Kids: [whispering among themselves]
    Dad: Come in my little loves, I am having no option but to be selling you all for scientific experiments.

    (Dad goes on to blame the Anglican church for not standing up to the (bloody) Catholics (who are to be filling up the whole world with children they cannot afford to be bloody feeding) when it came to talking about contraception in the UN and WHO forums on overpopulation, and the whole family breaks out into song... You know the rest.)

    There are Jews in the world, there are Buddhists,
    Anglicans and Catholics, and then,
    There are those that outsource to Mohammed, but
    I've never been one of them...

  • by Hamster Lover (558288) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:49PM (#14293871) Journal
    Not only are research costs low, but there is a skilled work force to conduct the trials.

    Umm, so essentially their skill is they're sick and need drugs? Talk about a back handed compliment. Well, Rahim, you have just the skills we're looking for, Leprosy.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:51PM (#14293885)
    I'm not sure what kind of FDA-equivalent the Indian government has, but there's definitely an advantage to conducting your human trials in places where people aren't breathing down your neck.

    I'll bet that India and the rest of the "developing" world will be the next scientific powers given their highly educated and motivated workforce, and the fact that they're a little less backward when it comes to science. Example: South Korea is taking on a cloning project while we're still fighting over teaching evolution in school, abortion and stem cell research.

    Sometimes it makes me wish we'd let the South win the civil war. They could live in backward redneck-land and the rest of the country could get on with evolving the species.
    • Are you honestly trying to say that you think that the US is more "backward" than India??
      Amazing...
      I would have thought that the penchant of people in the USA to question the morality or ethical repercussions of a scientific pursuit show maturity and a lack of willingness to sacrifice our humanity for some megalomaniacal pursuit of "progress".
      I'm sure we can all think of something we wish we could un-invent (weaponized atomic energy, nerve gas, communism). Science is a wonderful thing, but in order to bene
    • by ScentCone (795499) on Monday December 19, 2005 @06:06PM (#14294542)
      Sometimes it makes me wish we'd let the South win the civil war. They could live in backward redneck-land and the rest of the country could get on with evolving the species.

      Outstanding! One is rarely treated to such a display of irony: a sweeping, uninformed, all-inclusive condemnation of a huge swath of the country, contending that they, what... are losers because they make sweeping, uninformed judgements about things?

      I don't suppose you've met any of the loony hardcore Catholics from New England? Or perhaps some Mormons from the upper-Rockies area? Or maybe some urban Baptists from, say, Philadelphia? Or perhaps some addled-brained Wiccan Nitwits from Seattle? Or maybe some Orthodox Jews from downtown NY,NY? There are people with retro-silly sensibilities all over this country, and always have been. New England is still infested with Puritans. No amount of MTV or porn spam seems to cure it.

      On the other hand, I've met some of the most literate, gracious, science-informed, fundy-allergic, down-to-earth people in the world south of the Mason-Dixon Line. On balance, they're often considerably more rational and forward-thinking than some of the culture-rot-population I've met lurking in a lot of the northern cities. I'm just as tired of urbane, metrosexual pseudo-intellectuals who think that hydrogen is a new energy source being hidden by the government as you are of the hillbilly that thinks he's been abducted by aliens because he drank too much cough syrup.
    • by bstarrfield (761726) on Monday December 19, 2005 @06:55PM (#14294935)

      Ethics matter; ethics help assure good science.

      There's definitely an advantage to conducting your human trials in places where people aren't breathing down your neck.

      Ever frakkin' wonder why the FDA dares to breath down peoples necks? Do you think that people should be informed of the risks of the test; the potential for long term harm. Do you want pharmaceutical companies to document the positive and the adverse reactions of medical testing?

      Thank God we've found poor, uneducated people living in a country with a rampant caste system - where the poor are of even less spiritual value than the elite! Testing can proceed apace. And don't worry, the ends do justify the means.

      Gee, the South Koreans can have cloning by having one of their lab assistants donate her eggs - amongst numerous other problems with that particular series of experiments.

  • Okay (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joemawlma (897746) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:52PM (#14293899)
    How is this any different than the poor people here who get paid to test drugs? Just because it's happening in India now as well it's news? Yes India is another developed country just like ours with people who want to get paid to pop pills. As well as get paid to do all the same things we do. It's not like they're an alien race or something.
  • by cpn2000 (660758) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:52PM (#14293904)
    The Constant Gardener [imdb.com] anyone?
    • Yea, didn't the conservative bloggers just get finished telling us that the Constant Gardener was nothing but leftist conspiracy theory nonsense? Anti-capitalism propaganda?

      Or was it just that the movie actually raised the ethical question of what corporations can and cannot do in an effort to lower costs and raise profits, particularly Big Pharma? Now that we see it is happening, maybe we should start discussing it, rather than brushing it under the rug as the "pro-business" people do.
  • WWII (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pao|o (92817) on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:55PM (#14293928)
    I do recall that a lot of the medical advancements we are enjoying today are a result of the many barbaric experiments done by Nazi scientists on their prisoners back in WWII. So are the insights they gained from their immoral experiements bad enough that we shouldnt use it on moral grounds?
    • Re:WWII (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rainer_d (115765) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:35PM (#14294287) Homepage
      I do recall that a lot of the medical advancements we are enjoying today
      are a result of the many barbaric experiments done by Nazi scientists
      on their prisoners back in WWII.

      I think this is not exactly the case. More to the tune of "...a lot of the medical advancements we enjoyed in the 50s and 60s..."

      So are the insights they gained from their immoral experiements bad enough that we shouldnt use it on moral grounds?

      Back then, the origin of the studies was just conveniently forgotten. Unlike Dr. Mengele [wikipedia.org], his boss (Adolf Butenandt) managed to continue his career in post-war Germany - mainly by vigorously destroying every evidence of his deeds. Mengele fled to South America but his research was (in parts) considered the de-facto standard until the early sixties - he himself being a good scape-goat, too, taking most of the guilt of the rest of the staff with him.

      The reason, the concentration-camps were so attractive to all kinds of bio-scientist at that time were really two-fold:

      • total lack of regulations
      • the possibility to generate an mind-staggering amount of samples in a very short time
      (previous studies on twins, one of Dr. Mengele's favorite projects, had taken years and were taken on a much smaller sample)
      I must assume, it's the same in India today, again: lot's of samples, little paper-work. If corporations don't apply any ethics, things will run out of control, again. It may even run out of control with more regulation - after all, who can counter the killer-argument of "but it may cure xyz-cancer or AIDS".
      In the current climate of "sacrifice some lives for many/some freedoms for the big-picture", it's only a small step.

      Don't rely on the assumption that scientists will just do "the right thing" - more often than not, the prospect of being able to "advance science" will just open new abysses, which later generations will look down with disgust and horror.

      cheers,
      Rainer

  • Just like in The Gold Rush [imdb.com], many Indians are forced to eat their own shoes to survive.
  • by penguinoid (724646) <spambait001@yahoo.com> on Monday December 19, 2005 @04:58PM (#14293954) Homepage Journal
    "Not only are research costs low, but there is a skilled work force to conduct the trials," he said. In the rush to reap profits, Philpott cautions that drug companies may not be sensitive to how poverty can undermine the spirit of informed consent. "Individuals who participate in Indian clinical trials usually won't be educated. Offering $100 may be undue enticement; they may not even realize that they are being coerced," he said.

    "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."


    Hmm. There are obviously some ethical questions here, but I think that it is for the best. Cheaper trials means more research, and the tests are only conducted when it is almost certain to succeed. The US is much too stringent with medicine, because of lawsuits. People with shorter life expectancies don't care quite as much about the risks of testing drugs, and the sooner drugs are out there helping people, the better.

    Cue comments about how this is the most evil thing ever, and that nothing is as valuable as a human life (which is why, instead of buying christmas presents, you will donate to third world countries' medicine.)
    • Asshat alert: "which is why, instead of buying christmas presents, you will donate to third world countries' medicine"

      We've already established this is a shitty argument to make. I can't find the posts where it gets thoroughly put down, but I'm sure someone will dig up the full response.

      Question: How come you're posting on /. instead of helping to find a cure for breast cancer????

      Answer: Because you don't care / it isn't important to you / you have better things to do / it doesn't interest you / blah blah b
  • by RhettLivingston (544140) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:00PM (#14293981)

    In fact, this is one of the biggest problems in our current medical knowledgebase. Many important drug and poison studies have been conducted in India due to its unique mix of being technologically advanced enough to manage a study, structured enough to organize them, and having a large body of people willing to join them.

    The big downside is that India is not an ethnically diverse country. Thus, the results are not necessarily transferrable.

    Back in the '50s and '60s, the PCB studies were performed in India. PCBs were found to be highly toxic. It wasn't until the '70s and '80s that followup studies identified the fact that PCBs are vastly (as in 100x type vastly) more toxic to people of Indian and Japanese descent than to people of Caucasion and African descent. If the studies had been done in South America, America, Canada, or Europe, we'd probably still be using PCBs all over the place.

    It is critical for the further advancement of medicine that we move beyond our current statistical approach to medicine and studies and start defining which genetic and environmental factors are indications or contraindications for specific medicines. Many medicines kill some people and save others. Rather than tossing them aside, we must start learning to identify when they will kill and when they will save. That requires tests across diverse populations. India doesn't qualify.

    • For those that still think that PCB stands for printed circuit board, or it may mean this [epa.gov], in this context it is "plasma kinetics of procarbazine" that appears to be an anti-cancer thing.

      For me being a white boy, I wouldn't take something that was 100x more toxic in people over there. I'll stick to the stuff that isn't known to readily kill any human after determining that its OK (by the survival or death of others, right?!?).

      No, I don't mean the stuff that they just put on TV ads like this [ama-assn.org]. I'd take a ri
    • blessing and curse (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jbeaupre (752124) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:41PM (#14294342)
      Lack of diversity during certain phases is a good thing. It improves the signal to noise ratio in the statistics. It's why they use identical white mice. It's a bad move, when you extrapolate. Which is what someone did in your example. Luckily they erred on the safe side. Still, a good study should move from the narrow to the broad.

      In general, humans are pretty genetically uniform. But some crucial differences do pop up. Heck, think of testing something as benign as dairy products. Most of the world can't drink milk.

      Fun bit o' trivia: a significant number of chemicals that cause cancer in rats, don't in mice. And visa versa. Makes you wonder how reliable those tests are extrapolated to humans!
  • by ZeroExistenZ (721849) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:01PM (#14293992)
    In other news: No more animals are used for testing, all animal rights activist rejoice!
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:03PM (#14294017)
    http://www.novartisclinicaltrials.com/etrials/home .do?pl_id=bmretk000019 [novartiscl...trials.com]
    http://www.soyouwanna.com/site/syws/guineapig/guin eapigFULL.html [soyouwanna.com]

    Why go to India's poor ? The poor in the US can go to these links and do all types of experiments, for a variety of disorders.
  • by Ostien (893052) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:04PM (#14294024)
    This isin't about saving a few bucks (yes I know its more then a few bucks) on medical testing its about not respecting human life in an equal manner.

    "Third World lives are worth much less than the European lives. That is what colonialism was all about," said Srirupa Prasad, a visiting assistant professor of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    hits the nail on the head. unfortunatly.
  • by seanduffy (930895) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:04PM (#14294026) Homepage
    Sadly, abusing the underprivileged and poor for medical reasons occurs more frequently than one would think. For example, in addidtion to drug testing, during surgical residencies, most of the interns learn new procedures on the homeless or poor that in the hospital. Residents have to learn techniques somehow, and they are inevitably going to deliever sub-par results the first few times of doing something. Thus, the practice of using the underprivileged as "test-dummies" is unstated but widley accepted. Ideas for solutions to this moral dilemma?
  • ...of the rich exploiting the poor, I don't know what is.
  • "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."

    You know, there's a reason why doctors go through ethics procedures:

    [Doctor] Don't worry, the numbness and swelling should go away in a few weeks' time...
    [Patient] Grrwaaaaarrrwarrrrrr !
  • by Kunta Kinte (323399) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:10PM (#14294081) Journal

    For years people right here in the US have been selling body fluids and enrolling in drug trials to make extra cash.

    But there's a moral issue when it is done in some other country?

    Can we quite patronizing the people? They're poor not retarded.

    • Yeah, because I'm sure India rules and laws are as strict as they are in the US and that the patients will be treated the exact same. Yeah.

      That's where the issue is. In US and Canada, there is drug testing, but the people doing it aren't seen as lab rats; they're seen as human beings. In India, I wouldn't bet a dime that they give a flyin' fuck about the patients.

  • The days of the Raj are long gone, but multinational corporations are riding high on the trend toward globalization by taking advantage of India's educated work force and deep poverty to turn South Asia into the world's largest clinical-testing petri dish.

    God Help us if some new strain of drug-resistent virus (or some lab-made superbug) gets loose in such an environment.

    Nevertheless, even before the anti-generic rules were enacted, companies performing clinical trials in India saw their share of problems.

  • by G4from128k (686170) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:17PM (#14294138)
    This sounds like a recipe for disaster. I, personally, would avoid drugs that had not been tested on people genetically similar to myself. People are not identical in their ability to absorb, metabolize, respond to, or excrete medications. A drug that works well in one population can easily fail to help (or have fatal side effects) in people in a different population.
    • Do you have any evidence to back up your assertions? Some peer-reviewed studies, perhaps?

      IIRC, it's pretty well-documented that genetic variation *within* any one (racial, cultural) group is far greater than the statistical variation from one group to another. With a few isolated exceptions (sickle-cell anemia/malaria connection among some ethnic Africans, lack of adult lactase production in some Asian populations), we're all pretty much the same on the inside.

      You're right that people differ in their drug r
  • Not just in India (Score:3, Informative)

    by msbsod (574856) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:25PM (#14294206)
    Such practices are not new. Here is another example: "New York's HIV experiment" http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/this_world/4 038375.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • Drug Patents (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:33PM (#14294263) Homepage
    Now, pharmaceutical companies can rest assured they won't lose profits to a domestic market, and India is suddenly a profitable location for performing the expensive tests required for Food and Drug Administration clearance of any drug.

    This is a very interesting statement. One part of patent theory is that commercial organizations won't invest in developing new products unless they have a guarantee that someone else can't just copy their product and sell it. It will be interesting to see if abiding by drug patents promotes drug manufacturing and research to move to India, or if it means that they can't afford the patent costs and nobody can afford drugs there anymore.

  • by ThinkFr33ly (902481) on Monday December 19, 2005 @05:36PM (#14294291)
    I fully understand the importance of the FDA. It is extremely important to the safety of the American public and its doctors to have a reliable and unbiased source of information regarding drugs.

    One could argue that the market could regulate these drugs. If a drug company release a drug that did serious damage to 20% of the people taking it, this information would spread quickly and soon most people would stop taking that drug. But I would argue it is far better to have to undergo the rigorous testing the FDA puts most of the drugs through before they're made public so the dangers are known before it's available to most people.

    On the other hand, I think there is a lot to be said for making the FDA an "informational" body only. In other words, it would do the same testing it does now, and all drugs would have to be submitted before release just as they are now, but regardless of the outcome of that testing the drug companies could make that drug publicly available. Before taking a drug, or before a doctor prescribes a drug, this database would be consulted to see the dangers and see how effective it is. The patients and doctors could then make their own decision as to whether or not this drug is good or bad.

    If I'm dying of cancer I should be able to try anything I damn well please... in fact, if I've got a bad cold I should be able to try anything I damn well please. If I'm stupid and try the pharmacological equivalent of rat poison, then so be it... but the government shouldn't be able to limit my options.
    • Maybe we need a whole 'nother category for moderators. Parent is not flamebait. It is libertarian hogwash. It is advocating for a very dangerous form of laissez faire capitalism. But it really is too nuanced and logical to be flamebait.

      Now to address the thread. I'm not Indian, but I have lived in India as well as various places in Africa. The problem with this type of drug testing really has nothing to do with coercion or the inability to give informed consent. It really has to do with oversight an
  • by karuna (187401) on Monday December 19, 2005 @06:14PM (#14294599) Homepage
    I have funny experience with Indian medicines.

    When I was in India like 10 years ago I bought eye drops against conjunctivitis called Itone or something. They worked so well that I bought like 20 bottles for my friends with similar problems. I was a little perplexed why some bottles were marked with red letters "Physician sample". I returned to Europe and after 3 years I saw a poster in a local pharmacy which advertised a new, revolutionary drug that was just released, the same Itone I had been using for several years.

    My wife developed some stomach problems in India. She visited a doctor who gave her some medicine that took away all problems in one day. In Europe the same stomach problem returned but the doctors were horrified when she told what kind of medicine she was taking in India. They prescribed some other treatment but that was not very effective and it took 2 months to completely cure her illness. I guess the European doctors were not so experienced in tropical diseases.

    I know of another person who was treated by some Indian fakir who gave him ash from yagyas (sacrificial fire). Supposedly harmless thing that was simply blessed by his mantras and yantras. Nevertheless it was very effective and made the person very peaceful. Before this person was suffering from the bipolar disorder but he didn't want to take drugs because they made him dull. But simple ash worked so good for him. Long story short, after several years it turned out that the fakir was mixing very powerful psychotropic drug with ash and giving to him. Well, in the West it would be considered cheating but in India who cares if it did well to the patient. And if someone dies in the process that is not a big problem, there are already so many people in India that one person more or less doesn't make any difference.
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday December 20, 2005 @01:38AM (#14296793) Homepage Journal
    I remember the good 'ol days when laid-off outsourced american programmers would get the guinneypig jobs. Now those are gone too :-)

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