Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The risks of medical testing

I was listening to The Today Programme this morning (I know... it's a bad habit I need to get out of... how can I claim to be economically literate and still listen to that drivel?) and heard a story about some patients who had suffered a nasty reaction to a first stage drug trial. It seems they're more seriously ill than I first realised.

Of course, the whole purpose of these early trials is to screen for serious side effects before rolling out tests to more people but I suspect even the chemists were taken aback by this reaction.

The terrible situation happens just as a movement known as "Pro-Test" is gaining traction. I have been following their progress with interest (having always been too cowardly to confront the activists on Oxford Street myself).

From my perspective, today's event shows just how important animal testing is (think of all the drugs that are rejected before the human stage) but it does also show that the debate is not as clear-cut as those of us who favour science would like to admit: just as adverse animal reactions can lead to promising human drugs being derailed, promising animal results can lead to tragic results when tested on humans.

I wish the patients a full and speedy recovery.

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