The Constant Gardener and other thoughts

January 20th, 2005

The Constant Gardener and other thoughts…

I was all ready to go to sleep but then I had the sudden urge to write in my LJ. I haven’t posted in awhile so I figured I might as well. It’s been almost one and a half months since Semester at Sea and I can’t believe how fast the time went. I’ve pretty much readjusted to being at home but sometimes it’s still hard. I feel like it was all a dream and that if I want to get on with my life I have to put it behind me. I don’t want to do that, not at all, but I feel like I don’t have any other choice. What else can I do? “Hey, you want to hear about that time in Myanmar when we had to hike up to the Golden Rock and we were so disgusting and sweaty when we got to the top but it was all worth it when we saw the view.” It all seems so random now. I find myself biting my tongue more often than not. Sadly enough, it’s slowly fading away. I don’t want to lose touch with people but it’s so hard- especially once school starts. Excuses excuses right? Well then, expect random calls from me. 🙂 Ok, enough about SAS for now.

The reason I really wanted to post is because I saw Constant Gardener tonight and it brought up an issue that I never really thought about. It’s about big pharmaceutical companies in Kenya who test a TB drug called Dypraxa on unsuspecting TB infected poor civilians. Instead of reporting fatalities, they cover them up by destroying their medical records and burying them in deserted unmarked graves. If they did report such side-effects it would cost them millions of dollars and years of research to fix the formula. “ We’re not killing people who wouldn’t be dead otherwise.” is one of the lines from the movie and the general sentiment of the pharmaceutical companies who are in it solely for the profit. They say that a TB endemic is going to affect the whole world soon and that finding affordable and effective treatment is necessary. But at what cost? The kicker is that the people taking the drugs consent to it because if they don’t they would stop receving this free treatment. So I was watching the movie and wondering how true it all was…google to the rescue. Here’s what I found:

“According to a May 16 report in USA Today, giant drug outfits are outsourcing increasing numbers of drug trials outside the United States and Europe. Merck is now conducting 50 percent of its trials outside the United States. By 2006, 70 percent of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals trials are expected to occur offshore. Across Latin America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, the sick are abundant, desperate and doc-trusting, and so recruitment into clinical trials is rapid. As one executive from an outfit specializing in running drug trials in Asia put it, patients in developing countries are “more willing to be guinea pigs.” (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050912/shah)

 I guess it’s important to look at the other side of it too:

 “Some of the African subjects died in the trial, the film tells us, but little else is revealed. There’s a reason for this strange omission. Most Western audiences will easily jump to the conclusion that any experiment that rendered any deaths is irredeemable, no matter the condition of the patients, the purpose of the trial or the rates of deaths from traditional therapies or no therapy. And yet the business of testing experimental drugs in humans is a risky one, no matter what the condition or drug. Humane research practices may minimize the risks, which must be balanced against potential benefits, but the risks remain, regardless. As one HIV researcher put it, “I mean, shit, we learn by climbing over the bodies of humans.” (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20050912/shah)

More Articles ( granted, some are simply conspiracy theories but interesting to read nonethelss):

http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,69595-0.html?tw=wn_story_page_prev2
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/050400-02.htm
http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/002763.html

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