The Body Hunters: Testings New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-1565849129
ISBN-10: 1565849124
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a trenchant exposé of a sinister new trend in the pharmaceutical industry, investigative journalist Shah (Crude: The Story of Oil) uncovers a series of recent unethical drug trials conducted on impoverished and sick people in the developing world. Intricately delineating the causal relationships between past drug scares in America, such as thalidomide, and Americans' consequent reluctance to take part in drug testing, Shah demonstrates how a skyrocketing drug market has accelerated the search for "warm bodies" on which to test new products. Saying that the drug industry's main interest "is not enhancing or saving lives but acquiring stuff: data," Shah focuses in particular on the habitual use of a placebo control group, who receive little or no medical care. Shah concludes by spotlighting how drug regulators turn a blind eye to "coercion and misunderstanding between subjects and researchers," and how researchers actively seek countries that can provide them with a high death rate, so crucial to their data. Meticulously researched and packed with documentary evidence, Shah's tautly argued study will provoke much needed public debate about this disturbing facet of globalization. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Journalist Shah isn't afraid to ask hard questions. While acknowledging that medical science wouldn't be at today's highly evolved stage without the advantages of centuries of human experimentation, how moral is it, she ponders, to use humans for medical and scientific experiments? Her questions get harder when she exposes the manner in which big pharmaceutical companies conceive, research, and develop new drugs. Typically, those drugs don't aim to cure the world's enormous poor-but-sick population. Too often, the goal is to create not new but copycat drugs to prolong the lives of America's wealthy elderly population at the direct expense of people in Third World nations. With references to medical experimentation's grim history, including Nazi concentration-camp inmate "studies" and the Tuskegee syphilis study, Shah reveals how the poor, underinformed, or simply powerless have born the weight of medical advances. The story is as big as the issue is complex, and Shah's heavily documented account endeavors to be evenhanded, given what are clearly her own feelings about the topic. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 242 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565849124
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565849129
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sonia Shah is a science journalist and prize-winning author. Her writing on science, politics, and human rights has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Scientific American and elsewhere. Her work has been featured on RadioLab, Fresh Air, and TED, where her talk, "Three Reasons We Still Haven't Gotten Rid of Malaria" has been viewed by over 900,000 people around the world. Her 2010 book, The Fever, which was called a "tour-de-force history of malaria" (New York Times), "rollicking" (Time), and "brilliant" (Wall Street Journal) was long-listed for the Royal Society's Winton Prize. Her new book, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, is forthcoming from Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February 2016.

Her prize-winning 2006 drug industry exposé, The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients (New Press), has been hailed by Publishers Weekly as "a tautly argued study...a trenchant exposé...meticulously researched and packed with documentary evidence," and as "important [and] powerful" by The New England Journal of Medicine. The book, which international bestselling novelist and The Constant Gardener author John Le Carré called "an act of courage," has enjoyed wide international distribution, including French, Japanese, and Italian editions. The Library Journal named it one of the best consumer health books of 2006.

Shah was born in 1969 in New York City to Indian immigrants. Growing up, she shuttled between the northeastern United States where her parents practiced medicine and Mumbai and Bangalore, India, where her extended working-class family lived, developing a life-long interest in inequality between and within societies. She holds a BA in journalism, philosophy, and neuroscience from Oberlin College, and lives with molecular ecologist Mark Bulmer and their two sons Zakir and Kush.

Photo by Joyce Ravid.

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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jijnasu Forever VINE VOICE on August 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In a remarkably bold 'report', the lurking dangers of recent trends in clinical trials through contract research organizations is well presented. Without adopting an obvious higher moral ground nor using a broad brush to paint all of Big Pharma as pure evil (as some recent books on Big Pharma have done), the author focuses purely on the issue of clinical trials. Using recent examples from various companies (all familiar names to the average reader), the author poses interesting ethical questions regarding the "use" of patients in developing countries. In a series of interesting observations, the author explains why it is more "economical" and "practical" for drug companies to perform the FDA-required trials using measures such as "events" (number o f deaths during a particular number of days, or n'th death). While the bulk of the book is devoted to examples ranging from India, Latin America, and Africa to discuss the modalities of clinical trials and raise pertinent questions, the conclusion of the book is not very substantial. However, the author does point out that drugs should be seen as "social goods" and not mere new products; thus the means of developing them should be fair. Point well-made. A must read for anyone in the medical/pharmaceutical industry, investor, or a patient who uses any medicine.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
The development branch of the multi-national pharmaceutical industry has begun to expert its clinical research to the developing world, where ethical oversight is minimal and desperate patients abound - there to conduct research forbidden in the U.S. That's the hard-hitting message of a title based on several years of original research and reporting from Asia and Africa, making THE BODY HUNTERS: TESTING NEW DRUGS ON THE WORLD'S POOREST PATIENTS an eye-opening expose and 'must have' acquisition.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Miss Peabody on May 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Body Hunters by Sonia Shah is a fascinating look at modern drug trials. The FDA prefers drugs to be tested against placebos to show effectiveness. Americans and Western Europeans don't want to risk taking placebos. What to do, what to do? Pharmaceutical companies, instead of offering (usually more expensive) alternatives to the FDA, cheerfully administer placebos to mothers with AIDS and children with diptheria. Big Pharma argues, "Hey, these people are impoverished and wouldn't be getting anything at all if normally, what's the big deal? At least half of them are getting the drugs!" Read the book to read Shah's persuasive argument as to "what's the big deal." Not just an angry voice, she offers real, practical solutions to the problem.

I also enjoyed that the book provides a brief history of experimentation on human subjects. Hits on Tuskeegee, experimentation in Nazi concentration camps, and a few other infamous examples. Gives a rundown of the explosion of "lifestyle" drugs like Viagra and Prozac. (Did you know impotence and depression were hardly ever diagnosed prior to the introduction of these drugs? Are current levels of impotence and depression accurate???)

My only quibble is that Shah's writing is not the best. She is in desperate need of a thesaurus. People in the book tend to be "aghast" and "outraged."

This book is timely and important. Just yesterday I read in my local paper an article on a new STD drug found to slow the onset of AIDS. I read with baited breath...sure enough, the trial was conducted in Burkina Faso, and half the subjects were given placebos. The subjects were improverished women with HIV.
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