News Stories

No Medical Ethics for the Poor

Newswise - We've recently read scandalous stories about how the CIAfarms out torture by returning detainees to countries thatdo not hesitate to use these methods in order to obtaininformation. Now it's been announced that the FDA hasdecided that the widely accepted code of ethics used fordrug trials on patients is not necessary for studiesconducted abroad. Poor U.S. citizens don't fare anybetter?Bill Moyers reports that the U.S. government has paidblack families to spray pesticides in their homes so the FDAcan measure the results, even though it's known that theseinsecticides can be toxic to children.

The Lancet reports that the 2000 Declaration of Helsinki,signed by 82 international medical associations, states thatat the end of a drug trial, patients should have access tothe best care identified in the study and there should belimits on the use of placebos. Current FDA regulationsrequire that studies submitted in support of a new drugapplication must have been done in a manner consistenteither with the Declaration of Helsinki or any local laws,whichever is more protective for patients.

But in June 2004, the FDA proposed that clinical research ofa new drug no longer needed to comply with the HelsinkiDeclaration. This reminds us of the torture in the AbuGhraib prison that went on when the U.S. government decidedthat the military no longer needed to follow GenevaConvention rules.

This flaunting of long established rules has become businessas usual for the U.S. government. We've withdrawn from theKyoto Treaty, the Treaty on the Limitations ofAnti-Ballistic Missile Systems, the Biological WeaponsConvention, the Comprehensive test Ban Treaty, and the(land) Mine Ban Treaty. But this is the first time they'veapplied this attitude to drug research ethics.

In the March 24, 2005 edition of the New York Review ofBooks, Bill Moyers writes, "I read the news and learned howthe Environmental Protection Agency plotted to spend $9million?$2 million of it from the President's friends at theAmerican Chemistry Council?to pay poor families to continuethe use of pesticides in their homes. These pesticides havebeen linked to neurological damage in children, but insteadof ordering an end to their use, the government and theindustry concocted a scheme to offer the families $970 each,as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve asguinea pigs for the study."

The U.S. is treating foreigners?especially those who live inThird World Countries?as well as people of color in our owncountry, as guinea pigs who do not deserve the protection ofthe law, but are only there to be exploited for the benefitof Big Business.

This is what happens when we allow the existence ofrule bysecrecy.

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