“It’s estimated that millions of people worldwide take part in clinical trials, but when things go wrong in medical research there can be tragic consequences. Annabelle Quince investigates the ethical dilemmas of testing drugs on humans.
In January, a clinical trial in France went badly wrong. One young man died and several others suffered brain damage. The drug for treating mood disorders such as anxiety was being tested by a Portuguese pharmaceutical company, and the accident happened during phase one—that is, the first time it had been tested on humans.
As investigations into the incident continue in France and Portugal, questions are being raised about how it could have happened at all, and whether there are adequate procedures in place to protect people involved in clinical trials.
Alex O’Meara, a type I diabetic who has himself been involved in a clinical trial, says observers should remember that clinical trials are big business.
‘The way it happens these days is a clinical research organisation, which is a private company, will test a drug after a pharmaceutical company or a manufacturing company has an idea for something that they want to develop and sell,’ says O’Meara, the author of Chasing Medical Miracles: The Promise and Perils of Clinical Trials.”