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The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patientsby Sonia Shah
Synopses & Reviews
An eye-opening look at Big Pharma's unethical and exploitative drug trials in the global South.
Medical research imposes burdens. But generally speaking, we don't like to know it....If the history of human experimentation tells us anything, from the bloody vivisections of the first millennium to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, it is that such burdens made secret will fall heaviest on the poorest and most powerless among us.This groundbreaking book reveals the unethical drug-testing practices of the multinational pharmaceutical industry. In its quest to develop lucrative new drugs for the world's rich, the industry has turned away from the health needs of the world's poor. And yet, over the past decade, Big Pharma has quietly exported its clinical research business to the global South, where ethical oversight is minimal, and sick, poor, and desperate patients are abundant.
In The Body Hunters, investigative journalist Sonia Shah shows how the pharmaceutical industry is using testing procedures in the global South that would cause scandals in the developed world. In India, dozens of patients in drug trials have perished suffering deadly side effects known to the FDA; in Zambia, AIDS babies in clinical trials have been administered placebos.
The Body Hunters is based on several years of original research and reporting from Africa and Asia, and describes dozens of trials, as well as the checkered history of Western medical science in poor countries.
"In a trenchant exposé 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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The story is as big as the issue is complex, and Shah's heavily documented account endeavors to be evenhanded, given what are clearly her own feelings about the topic." Booklist
"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..." Library Journal
"This is a tough book to read, shocking and frequently depressing. But anyone who has relied on 21st-century science to heal what ails them should take a look." San Diego Union-Tribune
Reveals the unethical drug-testing practices of the multinational pharmaceutical industry. Shah shows how the pharmaceutical industry is using testing procedures in the global South that would cause scandals in the developed world.
This groundbreaking book reveals the unethical drug-testing practices of the multinational pharmaceutical industry. In its quest to develop lucrative new drugs, Big Pharma has quietly exported its clinical research business to the global South, where ethical oversight is minimal, and sick, poor, and desperate patients are abundant.
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 Carrés 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 Shahs 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 worlds poorest patients—be experimented upon or die for lack of medicine.
About the Author
Sonia Shah is an independent journalist and the author of Crude: The Story of Oil. Her articles have appeared in Salon, Playboy, the Nation, Orion, and elsewhere, and have been widely anthologized. A former editor at South End Press and at Nuclear Times, she lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
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