Clinical drug trials in Egypt are often conducted unethically and are harmful to trial participants’ health. This is the conclusion of Wemos, SOMO and Public Eye in an article in the report ‘Dirty Profits 5’, which was published today.
The article is based on our research report ‘Industry-sponsored clinical drug trials in Egypt: ethical questions in a challenging context’, which was published last year. Driven to desperation, trial participants spoke of their plight. ‘I was so happy to have an opportunity for treatment after having lost hope. I signed the informed consent form immediately and did not care to read it in detail,’ says one cancer patient.
For many patients in Egypt, taking part in clinical drug trials is their only chance of receiving medical treatment. Medicines are expensive and many Egyptians are not medically insured. According to the leading ethical guidelines, tested medicines that have received market approval should be available to the population of the country where the trials are conducted. However, our research revealed that the majority of the tested medicines – cancer medication in particular – were unaffordable for the average Egyptian.
Big Pharma’s haven
Egypt is just one of the many developing countries where the international pharmaceutical industry has increasingly been conducting clinical trials. Low costs, a large population with various diseases, and opaque regulations on the conduct of drug trials have made the country a popular haven for trials. Yet, there is a downside as well: there is insufficient funding for regulatory committees and unclear guidance to tackle violations of ethical guidelines. This makes trial participants all the more vulnerable due to potential negative consequences of partaking in trials, like experiencing painful side effects or (permanent) health damage.
Wemos believes that clinical trials should be conducted fairly and ethically – and comply with official ethical guidelines, like the Declaration of Helsinki.
Dirty Profits is an annual publication of the Berlin-based organization Facing Finance. The organization and report call on investors not to invest in multinational companies that are involved in violating human rights, corruption and/or environmental pollution.