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Using Humans As Lab Rats!
Novel drug testing on humans is a necessity. Before a new medication is being launched on pharmacy shelves, it must go through a series of clinical trials designed to test its safety and efficiency in treating diseases. Drugs will usually go through rigorous preclinical testing on animals first, and once they are validated, clinical trials on human subjects become essential as studies on animals might give misleading results on how drugs will affect humans.
Every year all around the globe millions of volunteers participate in drug clinical trials, some even have a full time job as human lab rats for pharmaceutical companies. In most cases, the rights and wellbeing of the trial participants validate over any other study interests. A formal procedure requiring ethical, legal and scientific aspects are thoroughly considered before initiating clinical studies on humans. Unfortunately, it?s not always a happy ending as sometimes medical experiments can go terribly wrong. On March 2006, healthy men took a part in a clinical trial in London to test a novel drug for treating arthritis called TGN1412. This drug was shown to be safe when tested on animals, however, after few hours of their first injection these men suffered multiple organ failure and were put in intensive care (1). This episode indicated an alarming possibility that pre-clinical animal studies may not reveal the real effects of drugs when used on humans.
Sometimes we are used as human guinea pigs involuntary; a good example is Genetically Modified (GM) food and its long term effects on humans? health. There are no extensive studies on the safety of such food products; yet, we are consuming these products as experimental animals each day. In 2009 The American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on genetically modified foods. Their report states, ?GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.? (2). Nevertheless, GM food is being grown and consumed globally under the debate that their benefits in fighting Third World food hunger crisis outweigh the risks!
There is no doubt, however, that some of the greatest medical advances came around after scientists tested their own drugs and theories on themselves, putting their lives at risk for the benefits of others. In 1984, Dr Barry Marshall deliberately infected himself with Helicobacter pylori to prove that it caused ulcer! He inhaled a whole beaker of the culture and as a result developed a severe gastritis. Nonetheless, his findings triggered research on Helicobacter and transformed millions of lives who suffered from ulcer worldwide. In 2005, Barry Marshal won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this discovery (3).