Margaret Munro examined the relationship between Canadian universities and drug companies.
The resulting series of stories, Drugs, Money, and Ethics, was published in CanWest Newspapers across the country February 23-28, 2004. This is her report:
The Michener-Deacon Fellowship enabled me to take an in-depth look at the clinical research industry that spends close to $1 billion a year testing new drugs and treatments on Canadians. Over the course of the four-month fellowship, I interviewed dozens of players in the booming research business – doctors, ethicists, patients, research companies.
The Fellowship also allowed me the time needed to ferret out reports on the industry which tends to cloak its activities behind confidentiality agreements.
While much of the research was done from my base in Vancouver, the fellowship allowed for travel to Toronto, Montreal, and Edmonton to pursue leads and gather information. The stories revealed several disquieting practices, some of which may be putting patients’ lives at risk.
The series also examined how clinical research is threatening to undermine the sacred doctor-patient relationship, how physicians act as middle-men for research companies trying to get new medicines to market, and how Canadian regulators are failing to address the growing problems associated with this trade in human research subjects.
THE SERIES: DRUGS, MONEY, AND ETHICS – By Margaret Munro
INTRODUCTION: As many as 1.8 million Canadians – from seniors with dementia to children with cancer – participate each year in clinical drug trials, a $1-billion industry that critics say cries out for better oversight and regulation. A four-month CanWest News Service investigation has found that research companies are pressuring Canadian doctors to quickly enroll patients into trials, engaging in questionable recruiting practices and are at times conducting trials that are neither ethically nor scientifically sound.