The growing number of clinical drug trials in developing countries is associated with a well-known list of attributes. Drug companies hope to do studies for less money, gaining a big population of treatment naïve patients to choose from. Developing countries hope for better access to meds and a shot at gaining some cutting-edge technologies for their economies.
But a recent gathering of science journalists in Qatar was also treated to a look at the dark side of the trend: A loose regard for ethics and a chance at spinning the data by overlooking side effects. The Guardian was there to report on it.
"Less stringent ethical review, anticipated under-reporting of side effects, and the lower risk of litigation make carrying out research in the developing world less demanding," said Ames Dhai, director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa.
India has been debating the issue and is working on a new streamlined approach to overseeing clinical trials in the subcontinent. One new bill is expected to identify one government agency to handle the monitoring work.
"We can even think of making it necessary for volunteers for human clinical trials to register with a government body first. This way we can make sure that their interests are protected when clinical trials are conducted on them," said Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) director-general V M Katoch.