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Research that does not consider participants’ health needs is unethical

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 11 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1423
  1. Allen G P Ross, professor, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Australia
  1. a.ross{at}

Research in poor countries must put patients first, writes Allen G P Ross, and ethics committees should insist that this happens

My colleagues and I currently coordinate a five year clinical trial investigating the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis in the remote Philippines. Twenty two villages and almost 20 000 residents in the municipalities of Laoang and Palapag are taking part.

The Northern Samar province is considered the second poorest in the country, with more than half of its rural inhabitants living below the poverty line. The prevalence of malnutrition is high, with stunting, thinness, and wasting seen in 49%, 28%, and 60% of all children respectively (unpublished data). The burden of infectious disease is also high. The prevalence of schistosomiasis was found to be 27.1% (n=10 436; 95% confidence interval 26.3% to 28.0%) and for infection with any soil transmitted helminth (Ascaris, Trichuris, and hookworm) 77.2% (n=10 434; 76.4% to 78.0%).1

While examining participants I am often asked to help with health problems …

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