Stop use of poor of developing countries as guinea pigs for western market

19 February 2008

Stop use of poor of developing countries as guinea pigs for western market

The Netherlands should do more to encourage research into medicines for developing countries, while an end should be called to research in developing countries aimed at the western market. This was the response of two SP Members of Parliament – Agnes Kant, SP spokeswoman on health care, and Ewout Irrgang, the party's spokesman on development issues – to a report from two Dutch organisations, international health NGO Wemos and multinational corporation watchdog Somo. The report shows a growing trend for clinical medical trials in poor countries. "Developing countries are used increasingly by the pharmaceutical industry as a test laboratory with poor people as guinea pigs," Kant observes. "Meanwhile in the west we are doing far too little to develop the means to help people there. This is morally reprehensible.

Moving clinical research to developing countries is done because it's cheaper there, there are fewer rules, and volunteers are easy to find. Participation in clinical research is often the only way people can get treatment, or just a way of earning money. It's often a matter of research that is irrelevant to people in developing countries. The two SP parliamentarians believe that the government should be doing all in its power to prevent such exploitation and have made a number of concrete proposals to that end:

  • Stricter control and thorough assessment by the European and decentralised regional authorities, with non-approval of unethically tested medicines
  • Compulsory disclosure of all clinical research, in a publicly accessible register conforming to WHO directives
  • Harmonisation of ethical criteria and stricter directives regarding research with placebos (instead of comparison with best existing treatment)

Agnes KantIn the view of the SP, more should be invested in research into medicines for diseases afflicting people in developing countries. Agnes Kant has previously proposed the establishment of an independent fund, sustained by a small levy on profits from new medicines, through which the pharmaceutical corporations would contribute to the financing of such research.

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