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Greg Webb
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Ethics of Clinical Trials Performed in Developing Countries Questioned

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According to a recent article published in the BBC News, it might not be the best idea for drug companies to out-source scientific experiments to labs in developing countries if they want to achieve reliable results. "Few drug companies have robust measures to ensure outsourced clinical trials in developing countries are safe and ethical." In laboratories in countries where justifying questionable results on behalf of one’s superiors is considered an honorable thing, reliable proofs of scientific experimental data could be dubious at best. In other words, it might not be a good idea to out-source scientific experiments to companies or organizations in countries where scientific ethics and safety regulations are not expected, monitored or enforced. Clinical drug trial experimentation and the arrival at reliable research results usually involve a great deal of planning, time, effort and money—if done well; if not performed properly, managed carefully and accurately, costly scientific experimentation is for naught.

The Financial Times also published an article November 28, 2012, on the same subject which noted that "clinical trials, which are increasingly taking place in developing economy countries, could be problematic when it comes to the treatment of patients if the drugs have adverse effects." That can mean only one thing: the drug clinical trial outcomes may not be reliable; and if that is true, then it would be unthinkable for any reputable drug company to sell the drugs or for any physician to prescribe the drugs to any patient.

This scientific community has been aware of the possibility that scientific results of experiments performed in developing countries might not be as accurate as possible. One might conjecture that the utterance of this problem has made its way to the newspapers because extensive funds may have been lost due to failed experimentation or less than ethical proofs—or one might hope due to the objections of courageous and conscientious scientists who could not sanction bad results being published. Whatever the case, drug companies now know they need to tighten up the management of drug trial experimentation if outsourced to laboratories in developing countries.

Of course, there are those who are pushing back: The Association of Clinical Research Organisations (ACRO), "whose members conduct more than 11,000 clinical trials in 115 countries involving more than two million research participants each year" have logged in on the subject, "…poor performance can be a death knell" for Clinical Research Organisations, as for them "reputation is everything."

This writer's guess is that the drug companies know exactly what they are getting when they conduct clinical trials in developing countries. And they have know for years. The award winning movie "The Constant Gardener" is a good example of this – check it out.