Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Handshake Drugs

God Damn. God Damn. God Damn the Pusher Man.

You know I've smoked a lot of grass
O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die

From Al-Jazeera: Outsourced: Clinical trials overseas

Ever wonder what kind of path those fancy prescriptions that you picked up at CVS or Walgreens last week might have taken to get from the chalkboard to the pill bottle? Well, Al-Jazeera's program Faultlines provides a pretty interesting look into the realm of third world clinical studies.

Most college students in this country are at least passingly familiar with the concept of medical studies. It's a great way to grab a few extra bucks without tying yourself down to a part time job that can eat away at your precious extra study time. But here in the states most of the trials that you can sign yourself up for are psychological. Basic studies into how the brain works, usually involving more flash cards and stop watches than pills and injections. But of course, those pills you're taking had to have been researched and tested before they were sold to the American consumer. And in the last 20 years, a great deal of those clinical trials have gone over seas.

Feeding off a social class marked by extreme poverty and illiteracy, CROs, or Clinical Research Organizations, are increasingly finding it much easier to take shortcuts around the regulations of oversight committees by having these trials take place in areas where it is preferable to receive this skewed form of medical treatment that involves new and experimental drugs rather than receive no treatment at all. And the ethical practices of these organizations are beyond questionable.

The program provides interviews with several locals who have undergone these clinical tests. One particularly jarring example tells of several families from an agricultural area whose daughters were enrolled in a boarding school several hours away. These young girls were enlisted in the studies for a cervical cancer drug without the knowledge of their parents, with their consent forms signed by the headmaster of their school. Five young girls died in the course of the testing, and the hospitals involved have refused to release their findings, both from the course of the study and the children's post-mortem reports, not only to the reporters from Al-Jazeera, but to the girls' families, as well.

Many of the subjects in these trials are unaware they are taking part in the studies. Several participants recount being handed paperwork in English, despite the fact that they are illiterate in their native tongue, let alone a foreign one. While one document shown clearly lists a "Study Drug" in its text bearing the consenting signature of the participant, the man asserts that at no point was he made aware in his native tongue the possible repercussions of being involved in such a study.

Sure makes ya feel good, huh?

But of course, we all know what the real danger is in the world of chemically altering your metabolism. It's that god damned wacky marijuana! Scourge of the masses, indeed. Call me crazy, but I prefer my drugs to come from a man who can look me in the eye with a smile, rather than a clipboard and a corporate check book.

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