Intended for healthcare professionals


Scientific imperialism

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 22 March 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:840

If they won't benefit from the findings, poor people in the developing world shouldn't be used in research

  1. Peter Wilmshurst, Consultant cardiologista
  1. a Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shrewsbury SY3 8XQ

    This week the BMJ carries a debate on whether drug companies conducting clinical trials on patients infected with HIV in South Africa should continue to supply the drugs after the trial ends to the subjects who show benefit and who cannot afford to buy them (p 887).1 Dr Peter King of Roche Products concedes that subjects in clinical trials in Britain may be treated differently from those in Africa and South America (p 890). This inequality of treatment prompts other questions. Should research be conducted in a country where the people are unlikely to benefit from the findings because most of the population is too poor to buy effective treatment? Are poor people in developing countries being exploited in research for the benefit of patients in the developed world where subject recruitment to a randomised trial would be difficult?

    The marketing policies of multinational drug companies proves that they do not treat developed and developing countries equally. The Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing, an international lobby group based in Australia, repeatedly criticises companies which market in developing countries drugs that are denied a product licence in the developed world …

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