Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Ethics and antiterrorism

Shares

Medical research on vulnerable populations in the developing world must respect their rights and wellbeing to remain ethical. But a recent trial in Tanzania, funded by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has been accused of breaking the rules in the interests of US biodefence.

In this article, Martin Enserink tells how plague expert Thomas Butler, hearing of 63 plague victims in Tanzania, conducted trials of the antibiotic gentamicin there. The study sought to plug a gap in US biodefence by widening the choice of antibiotics to stockpile in case bioterrorists used the bacterium in the United States. Then it emerged that Butler had allegedly failed to obtain informed consent from the patients.

Butler now faces jail on a number of counts. The FDA has also come under fire for buying the results when the trial was never fully approved. What is worse, some now suggest that the research itself is fundamentally flawed, making the whole exercise a hugely expensive mistake. 

Link to full article in Science

Reference: Science 302, 2056 (2003)

Republish
We encourage you to republish this article online and in print, it’s free under our creative commons attribution license, but please follow some simple guidelines:
  1. You have to credit our authors.
  2. You have to credit SciDev.Net — where possible include our logo with a link back to the original article.
  3. You can simply run the first few lines of the article and then add: “Read the full article on SciDev.Net” containing a link back to the original article.
  4. If you want to also take images published in this story you will need to confirm with the original source if you're licensed to use them.
  5. The easiest way to get the article on your site is to embed the code below.
For more information view our media page and republishing guidelines.