Sunday, February 22, 2009

NYT Piling On: "Outsourcing of Drug Trials is Faulted"

I am often amazed by the power of memes. It seems that any activity to which the word "outsourcing" could possibly be applied is now a target.

The latest is a story in the Thursday New York Times (link).

The article suggests an ethical quagmire when drug testing is done in developing countries. Apparently some researchers from Duke, and the reporters at the New York Times, want to take choices away from potential drug trial participants in developing countries because they "may be unduly influenced with the promise of financial compensation or free medical care to participate in clinical trials."

This is despite the fact that every leading drug company has detailed "human testing" requirements to make sure that participants understand the risks and rewards.

It would, of course, be nice if everyone in the world was middle class and had access to top notch health care. But they don't. The real choice facing many potential participants is access to care or not. Seems like if you're a poor, rural person in India, Malawi, or Bolivia, the promise of free medical care might be quite attractive.

Of course participants should be fully informed. But this is naive paternalism run amok. Do the do-gooders at the NYT really think they know better than a potential participant the trade off that individual should make? Apparently they do.

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