“We would need further details to investigate what actually took place, but the practices outlined certainly don’t reflect how modern clinical trials are carried out. We conduct our trials to the same high scientific and ethical standards, no matter where in the world they are run.”
That’s a comment from a GlaxoSmithKline spokesperson following the discovery of mass graves of an estimated 800 children in Ireland, who are thought to have died while taking part in ‘secret’ clinical trials, for which there is no evidence informed consent was ever given. That’s a huge number of deaths, by any standards. It is to be wondered how many deaths (and injuries) it took before the trials were stopped.
It would be nice to think that the GSK spokesperson is right, that such things could never happen today. But there’s a whole list of unethical practices in Wikipedia that GSK have been involved in, and those are just the more recent cases. And what about their current collaboration with the Gates Foundation to develop a malaria vaccine? Such a vaccine would be a godsend, but who is keeping an eye on them, given their record?
I don’t doubt that such things no longer happen in Ireland, nor in other Western countries. But unethical practices in African countries are certainly not a thing of the past.
The Don’t Get Stuck With HIV site has a section on DepoProvera (DMPA) hormonal contraceptive, which evidence suggests may increase infection with HIV among those using, and onward transmission by those using the method. Also on this site David Gisselquist has written about the unethical behavior of health professionals who have failed to investigate or act in any way on evidence that infants and adults may have been infected with HIV through unsafe healthcare.
WHO have been dragging their feet over unsafe healthcare, especially unsafe injections through reuse of injecting equipment, use of DepoProvera in HIV endemic countries and various non-sexual modes of HIV transmission. There are also the mass male circumcision campaigns, which are based on lies about research that was carried out in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda. It has never been explained how people who seroconverted during these trials were infected with HIV, it was just claimed that they must have had unsafe sex. Though many of the men did not have any obvious sexual risks, non-sexual risks were not considered, including the circumcision operation itself.
The list of serious ethical breeches goes on. Some participants taking part in the circumcision trials were not told they were infected with HIV, and were followed to see how long it would take for them to infect their partners, who also weren’t told they were at risk. This resembles the Tuskegee and Guatemala Syphilis ‘Experiments‘, which also ended in the 1960s. Yet mass male circumcision campaigns are ongoing and extremely well funded, despite not having anything like the rate of takeup anticipated by those making a lot of money from carrying out the operations.
There has been some secrecy surrounding DepoProvera, and a lot of data about mass male circumcision may have been collected but never released, but much of the data about these issues is readily available to anyone with an internet connection. Like the results of the Irish trials, much of the research was published in “prestigious medical journals”. But I assume this is not what GSK is referring to when they talk about ‘modern clinical trials’?