New book on biomedical research in developing countries
Familiarity with these issues may not breed contempt, but it can breed a certain level of indifference. This potential indifference is dangerous to the extent that ethically questionable trends and practices in international research continue to go on. That is why the new book by Sonia Shah (The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients) comes at a good time. The book has a Foreword by John Le Carre (of The Constant Gardener fame, among other accomplishments), and Ms. Shah has done some of her own investigations of research cultures in South Africa and India.
This blogger has ordered the book and eagerly awaits its arrival. Since scandal sells, and the theme of 'rich white corporation exploits poor black people' sells even more, will the book be an unbalanced diatribe against the pharmaceutical industry? Or a rich account that carefully explores the inherent ethical tensions when health research takes place in a world of inequality, and offers decent support for its claims and conclusions about the practices of pharmaceutical companies? Playing advocate for the vulnerable is both admirable and risky. In some articles, Ms. Shah's readiness to link international research with the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment seems to betray a taste for sensationalism. Hopefully the book is made of stronger stuff.