India's New Battle Against Imperialism by the Pharmaceutical Companies
Posted Oct 01 2008 10:28pm
Glenn McGee, the director of Alden March Bioethics Institute in Albany, draws a parallel between the outsourcing of clinical trials of Western pharmaceutical companies and the history of British imperialism in India. As the necessity for clinical trials increase with the discovery of new drugs, people willing to enroll in clinical trials from developed countries decreases. Pharmaceutical companies, therefore, are moving clinical trials to the largely illiterate populations of the developing and under-developed countries in exchange for a miniscule amount of US/European currencies. The disparity between the exchange rates reduces the cost of the trials drastically as well as providing a large (in terms of Indian currency) income to the participants in these clinical trials.
But that is not the primary reason why McGee claims that Gandhi would have led a protest march against clinical trials if he had been alive. McGee points out that a majority of the enrollees in these clinical trials have no idea what drugs they are taking. Even though these subjects are giving their consent, they have no idea to what they are consenting. In some cases, the drug has not been proven safe before the trials. McGee mentions the case of the unapproved clinical trial in which 435 women were given a fertility drug that was not cleared for testing on human subjects. Clinical trials too offensive to American research subjects are being proffered to the residents of India. McGee wonders how long until the people of India rise up against this new form of imperialism.