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Book and Media Reviews
December 16, 2009

Medical Research for Hire: The Political Economy of Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials

JAMA. 2009;302(23):2603. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1779

Ambivalence toward the pharmaceutical industry is based on hope for progress and frustration with delays in applying discoveries but also on fears about product safety, “human guinea pigs,” and deception, as described in Marcia Angell's The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It (2004) and Jerome Kassirer's On the Take: How Medicine's Complicity With Big Business Can Endanger Your Health (2005). However, as a business, the industry is accountable to shareholders, while public expectation progressively raises the bar for getting products to market and deriving return for investment, making innovative development an increasingly risky business. What is important is not whether research is for-profit but how it is conducted and applied. This industry is unique in neither its evolution nor its response to economic pressures and globalization, as documented in Sonia Shah's The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World's Poorest Patients (2006).

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