Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients

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Hailed by John le Carré as "an act of courage on the part of its author" and singled out for praise by the leading medical journals in the United States and the United Kingdom, The Body Hunters uncovers the real-life story behind le Carré’s acclaimed novel The Constant Gardener and the feature film based on it.

"A trenchant exposé . . . meticulously researched and packed with documentary evidence" (Publishers Weekly), Sonia Shah’s riveting journalistic account shines a much-needed spotlight on a disturbing new global trend. Drawing on years of original research and reporting in Africa and Asia, Shah examines how the multinational pharmaceutical industry, in its quest to develop lucrative drugs, has begun exporting its clinical research trials to the developing world, where ethical oversight is minimal and desperate patients abound. As the New England Journal of Medicine notes, "it is critical that those engaged in drug development, clinical research and its oversight, research ethics, and policy know about these stories," which tell of an impossible choice being faced by many of the world’s poorest patients—be experimented upon or die for lack of medicine.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a trenchant expos of a sinister new trend in the pharmaceutical industry, investigative journalist Shah (Crude: The Story of Oil) uncovers a series of recent unethical drug trials conducted on impoverished and sick people in the developing world. Intricately delineating the causal relationships between past drug scares in America, such as thalidomide, and Americans' consequent reluctance to take part in drug testing, Shah demonstrates how a skyrocketing drug market has accelerated the search for "warm bodies" on which to test new products. Saying that the drug industry's main interest "is not enhancing or saving lives but acquiring stuff: data," Shah focuses in particular on the habitual use of a placebo control group, who receive little or no medical care. Shah concludes by spotlighting how drug regulators turn a blind eye to "coercion and misunderstanding between subjects and researchers," and how researchers actively seek countries that can provide them with a high death rate, so crucial to their data. Meticulously researched and packed with documentary evidence, Shah's tautly argued study will provoke much needed public debate about this disturbing facet of globalization. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Would you let someone test an experimental drug on your child? Thousands in the United States did when Salk's polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s, but since then, the willingness of Americans and others in wealthy countries to participate in clinical trials has decreased significantly. As such, a new system for locating and recruiting patients in poor countries has been engendered by the multinational pharmaceutical industry. Having spent years gathering research in Africa and Asia, investigative journalist Shah (Crude: The Story of Oil) explores the ethical issues involved and makes the case that the system is essentially exploitative. She includes among her examples of poor peoples' rights being abused a lack of informed consent and oversight, a misunderstanding of the nature of placebos, and the receiving of free food in exchange for "volunteer" trial participation. Undoubtedly some drug companies and researchers will disagree with Shah's conclusions, but she provides compelling evidence and suggests solutions that would still provide clinical data without exploiting the poor. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Elizabeth Williams, Washoe Cty. Lib. Syst., Reno Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849129
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/28/2006
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 242
  • Sales rank: 1,516,433
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sonia Shah is an independent journalist and the author of Crude: The Story of Oil. Her articles have appeared in Salon, Playboy, and The Nation, and have been widely anthologized. A 2005 investigative journalism fellow of The Nation Institute, she lives in Boston, Massachusetts. John le Carré is the author of numerous bestselling novels. He lives in Cornwall, England.
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Table of Contents

1 Clinical trials go global 1
2 The placebo control 18
3 Growing the pharma monolith 36
4 Uncaging the Guinea pig 62
5 HIV and the second-rate solution 77
6 South Africa : drug trials and AIDS denialism 100
7 Outsourcing to India : the one billion body politic 112
8 Calibrating ethical codes 132
9 The emperor has no clothes : the vagaries of informed consent 144
10 Tipping the scales 164
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