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Ethical concerns over clinical trials

DOHA, Qatar, Jun 29 – Scientists at the ongoing World Conference of Science Journalists have raised concerns about clinical trials done in the developing world.

Mona Khanna, a Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Illinois\’ Department of Medicine took issue with the ethical standards of the trials done in these nations.

"It has been argued that the ethical standards in clinical trials done in developing countries should match the standards of the developed nations when there are no trials," she told participants at the three day conference in Doha.

Professor Ames Dhai, Director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa noted that most of the patients who were involved in such trials were misinformed about them and some believed that they would get cured after the trials.

Patients, she added, sometimes are not free to drop out of the trials when they want to.

"There are violations of patients\’ rights after the trials because most of the times those involved in them don\’t benefit afterwards," she said adding that in most cases after successful trials the organisations involved take their product to the developed countries because of the pay.

Two years ago, Kenyan Public Health Minister Beth Mugo was involved in a row with an American drug manufacturer that had refused to subsidise the cost of pneumococcal vaccine that prevents pneumonia in children.

The vaccine trials had been done on Kenyan children for over 10 years.

"Kenyan children cannot be guinea pigs just to be used to develop the medicine and after that we cannot access it. There are areas that we have to put our foot down because we also have a right to those vaccines," a furious Mrs Mugo said at the time.

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Professor Khanna told the conference that the main reasons why most of the clinical trials were done in developing countries was the need to access better medical care, job creation and low fee for such trials.

She added that high fees for clinical trials and tedious bureaucracy in developed countries like the United Stated and United Kingdom were the reasons why scientists avoid conducting their clinical trials in the developed countries.

She said there was need for a legal framework to protect the rights of the persons used in the clinical tests for various drugs.

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