By David Evans, Michael Smith and Liz Willen
January 8, 2006
Oversight laxon clinical drugtrials, critics say
Big Pharma, as the world's largest drug makers are called, spends billions of dollars every year to test experimental drugs on humans.
In the U.S., 37 million people have been human guinea pigs.
Helped by human testing, drug makers have developed antibiotics capable of curing life-threatening infections as well as revolutionary treatments for diseases such as cancer and AIDS. Few doctors dispute that testing drugs on people is necessary: No amount of experimentation on laboratory rats will reliably show how a chemical will affect people.
These medical success stories mask a clinical drug trial industry that is poorly regulated, riddled with conflicts of interest -- and sometimes deadly.
Rules requiring subjects to avoid alcohol and narcotics and to take part in only one study at a time are sometimes ignored by participants, putting themselves at risk and tainting the test data.