Informed Consent and Big Pharma
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2012/01/23
I am realizing increasingly that the HIV/AIDS blunder/industry is far from unique, indeed that it reflects shockingly but faithfully many other present-day medical practices, for example the fudging of “informed consent” regulations by outsourcing trials to Africa and the profit-greedy peddling of insufficiently tested and all-too-often toxic drugs. See for example the article, “Too many given no right to refuse in medical trials” by Harriet A. Washington in the New Scientist, #2848, 23 January 2012.
Her new book also seems pertinent: Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself–And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future, Doubleday2011 —
“National Book Critics Circle Award winner Washington (Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, 2007, etc.) begins with the controversial 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, which allowed the commercialization of medical inventions based on government-funded patents, including those on living things. As a result, an unprecedented collusion between universities, researchers and private pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies spawned an era in which many vital medicines are too expensive or inaccessible to average consumers, or rushed to market before being adequately tested. Despite the fact that taxpayers largely fund medical research and development, pharma companies include that cost in their purported expenses, therefore using disingenuous figures to justify the skyrocketing costs of patented drugs. The author adeptly details the wide-ranging repercussions of this monopolistic research model and recounts chilling anecdotes that reveal a pattern of shady practices by biotech and pharma companies. These firms often display a lack of respect for patients’ rights in a ruthless pursuit of “blockbuster” drugs without regard for helping those who need it most. As of 2009, only 10 percent of the more than $70 billion spent per year on medical research addresses “diseases that cause 90 percent of the world’s health burden.” In addition, minorities and poor populations are often exploited for their genetic material yet not compensated for their contribution. Thousands of people die from preventable causes simply because it’s not profitable to save them. The author clearly presents data to elucidate these complex issues, and cogently argues that there are opportunities to reinstate transparency, collaboration and altruism in drug development and disbursement” (editorial review on amazon.com).