UK – Drug companies using the poor to test drugs

A report by ‘Access to Medicine Index’ has raised concerns over the way drug companies are outsourcing drug testing and using the poor as guinea pigs.

One of the concerns raised was that drug companies have little (if any) real control over how the testing is carried out by independent providers in places such as the third world. Although there are supposed to be procedures in place to protect those being used as guinea pigs, few of the main drug companies disclosed details of any action taken against their providers when the provider’s conduct fell short of guidelines.

One of the report’s authors, David Sampson, said “Regulatory regimes in developing countries are more variable – and anything putting patients at risk is an unacceptable practice and a significant concern.”

Perhaps the question is why the major drug companies, with extensive resources and financial clout, feel the need to outsource their clinical trials to places where human rights could be questionable, and control and regulation of the drug industry may fall far short of being acceptable.

By outsourcing drug trials the major drug companies are using layers of protection to ensure if something goes wrong, or the trials are criticised, they can pass the buck. The drug companies have also been accused of being less than transparent in the way the outsourcing is conducted and the guidelines and safety measures in place.

In a poorly regulated and poor country the drug companies could be testing anything on anyone in any way, with little regard for the conditions of the testing or the wellbeing of their guinea pigs. Perhaps they keep them in cages like pets!

Drugs are dangerous – there is no doubt about that. And when major companies with immense wealth and power start to use the poor who may have few rights and no voice in the world, the motives of the drug barons need to be questioned.

More on this:

BBC News

BBC Magazine


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