Thursday, March 16, 2006

Drug Trial Errors

When considering the plight of the poor souls who are currently fighting for their lives as a result of the drug trial gone wrong, I can't help but think back to the animal testing debate. The one thing that has been shown demonstrably by this news is that even testing on animals doesn't sort everything out - and all drugs have to have undergone animal testing before they can get to humans.

I'd be interested to know a couple of facts. I guess from the attention that this story has received, that serious problems from first-stage testing are pretty rare. Is this true? Secondly, I'd like to know how many drugs get canned or altered very substantially as a result of animal testing.

When this is considered against the showdown between Pro-Test and SPEAK in Oxford, I would say recent news shows the utter necessity of animal testing. Far from being "scientific fraud", without animal testing there is just not enough knowledge in the development stage of new drugs to justify risking them on humans. Without animal testing, new treatments could not be developed.

I'd be interested to know Matt Sellwood's opinions on this. I understand his opposition to animal testing to be well-founded, however much I may disagree with it. But what is his reaction to the problems of drug trials? Would he simply prefer to have a situation where no drugs were developed at all?

PS One of the many sadnesses of this story is that it will undoubtedly deter many people from volunteering for such trials in the future. The Guardian carries an article from a former Parexel volunteer who now knows he will not volunteer for such trials in the future. Yet he was testing out drugs for diabetics which, if developed successfully, could be of immense good. My heart hopes, against my head, that an isolated incident like this one will not cause delays for medical advance.