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.)
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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 ChavezCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved