Making a killing

More revelations about how Africans are being used as guinea pigs for unethical drug tests

Published: Wednesday 31 January 2001

the Washington Post has made damning discoveries on how foreign drugs firms, some of them based in the us , have been using African and Latin Americans as guinea pigs in testing risky drugs. The same paper had blown the lid on the administration of a drug, Trovan Floxacin, on Nigerian children in 1996, resulting in the death of 11 and the deformity of 200 others.

The report stated the incidents showed "how a poorly regulated drug testing had turned human beings into medical guinea pigs in Africa and other parts of the developing world." "It is dominated by private interests, and the system often betrays its promises to patients and consumers experiments involving risky drugs proceed with little independent oversight. Impoverished, poorly-educated patients are sometimes tested without their knowledge," the paper found out.

It also revealed that us based drug companies were paying physicians to test thousands of 'human subjects' in the developing world and eastern Europe, adding that companies used the tests to produce new products and new revenue streams. In most instances, the rules and regulations were poorly enforced or ignored, while the experiments raised questions about corporate ethics and profits among other things, the investigation showed.

The paper alleged that Pfizer, a global drug firm, had developed a new antibiotic drug to fight Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis (csm), which had not received the approval of the us authorities for use, but was tested on some csm patients in Kano. The Washington Post had, in an investigation, indicted Pfizer of unethical conduct, for not telling patients that they were being used as guinea pigs. The paper also said that while Pfizer claimed it had received the consent of the Federal Government to conduct the trials, it could not produce such consent.

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