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Saturday, 24 June, 2000, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Moves to outlaw 'unethical' drug trials
Africa patient
The morality of some drugs trials is in doubt
Medical experiment guidelines are being strengthened as part of efforts to ensure drug trials are carried out ethically.

The aim is to stop pharmaceutical companies targeting vulnerable groups and making unscrupulous use of the third world as a testing ground for drug trials.

The World Medical Association (WMA) is calling on drug companies to ensure any tests on humans are carried out to the highest standards.

Proposed amendments to its Declaration of Helsinki place a priority on protecting participants in clinical trials.

The declaration, which was drawn up in the 1950s in response to medical experimentation by the Nazis on humans in World War II, states that people involved in tests must be fully informed of the risks and must be given proper medical care.

Dr Anders Milton, chairman of the WMA, told BBC News Online that the changes would strengthen the guidelines on experimentation.

'One voice'

"It is very important that medical research is carried out ethically and does not adversely affect the subject.

"Pharmaceutical companies should not use non-industrial countries to test drugs which will be used in the industrial world.

"It is very important that medical associations throughout the world speak with one voice on the issue of experimentation."

A number of medical trials on humans have come in for heavy criticism in recent years. Some of those which have drawn most anger are those involving Aids drugs and vaccines.

Critics say some pharmaceutical companies have targeted 'vulnerable groups', such as gay men and drug users, and are denying participants proper level of medical care.


It is very important that medical research is carried out ethically

Dr Anders Milton, World Medical Association
Trials which are carried out on people living in the third world have also been criticised.

Opponents claim participants are only receiving basic levels of healthcare and are not receiving the level of treatment that is available in the first world.

The US medical consumer group Public Citizen has strongly condemned some trials.

In 1997, it alleged that, as a result of some experiments funded by the US Government, 1,000 children had died unnecessarily from Aids.

It questioned the reason for some trials which it said had failed to come up with new findings.

However, advocates of the trials say they are essential if advances are to be made in drug treatments.

Nevertheless, the WMA is not the only international organisation to voice concerns about medical trials.

Last February, the UN body in charge of combating Aids, Unaids, called for tests to be independently monitored to ensure they are meeting ethical standards.

A final decision on the wording of the new Declaration of Helsinki will be taken at the WMA annual general assembly in Edinburgh in October.

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04 May 00 | Health
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