If you’ve ever felt uneasy about the fact that so many of the items you buy in retail outlets are from China, here’s another reason for worry. Experts are concerned that research on our pharmaceutical drugs performed in China has allowed dangers in medications to go undetected.
According to a report in The New York Times, executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline have ignored years of warnings about research on their drugs in China.
During the past seven years, according to The Times, 13 of the top 20 Big Pharma firms have conducted research on the cheap in China to boost their bottom lines.
“It’s cheaper to do research there,” Eric G. Campbell, a professor of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School told The Times. He added: “I have absolutely no doubt that with cheaper research comes greater risk.”
One reported problem has been the lack of safety information about drugs in development before they were tested on humans. A drug called ozanezumab, designed to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis, was given to people before the results of six lab studies were analyzed.
“If that’s true, it’s a mortal sin in research requirements,” Arthur L. Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center told The Times. Caplan has served an advisor to Glaxo. “No one could approve human trials without having that information available, scientifically or ethically. That’s kind of a Rock-of-Gibraltar-sized ethics violation.”
But apparently somebody did give approval.
At the same time, Chinese regulators have accused Glaxo of bribery and corruption. They say the Big Pharma firm worked with travel agencies to bribe to doctors and government bureaucrats to increase pharmaceutical sales. Other drug companies are also under investigation.