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“Doing the Lab Rat Thing”: The Hidden World of Pharmaceutical Testing on Healthy Volunteers (webinar)
April 7 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
Date: Thursday, April 7, 2022
Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Imagine you’ve been asked to test the safety and tolerability of an experimental drug. To do so, you will consume either the drug or a placebo—an inert sugar pill—in a Phase I clinical trial. There are risks of enrolling, but you will receive up to $5,175 for participating. If you enroll, you will spend twenty nights literally locked in a research facility. You will be told what to eat, when to eat, and when to sleep. You will share a bedroom with several strangers. Who are you, and why would you choose to take part in this kind of study? This talk explores the hidden world of pharmaceutical testing on healthy volunteers. Using her book Adverse Events as the material for this talk, Professor Fisher will discuss what these clinical trials are and how healthy volunteers’ decisions to participate are often influenced by larger social contexts of economic insecurity and racial discrimination that make clinical trials an attractive financial opportunity. She will also describe the important validity concerns inherent in this mode of testing new pharmaceuticals. These highly controlled studies bear little resemblance to real-world conditions, and everyone involved is incentivized to game the system, ultimately making new drugs appear safer than they really are.
Jill A. Fisher, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Social Medicine and Center for Bioethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of Medical Research for Hire: The Political Economy of Pharmaceutical Clinical Trials (Rutgers University Press, 2009) and Adverse Events: Race, Inequality, and the Testing of New Pharmaceuticals (New York University Press, 2020). She also edited the collection Gender and the Science of Difference: Cultural Politics of Contemporary Science and Medicine (Rutgers University Press, 2011). More information about Prof. Fisher as well as many of her publications can be found at her website: www.jillfisher.net.
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