Edits to Ethics Code Rankle
This week, as politicians and ethicists gather to celebrate the anniversary of the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki, drug companies and medical researchers are still grumbling about a pair of revisions made last year. One addressed ethical quandaries raised by a growing trend for clinical trials conducted in the developing world; the other declared that pharmaceutical companies have a responsibility to keep providing medication to participants who benefit from it, even if the drug being tested never makes it to market.
The declaration is a set of principles that many countries draw on when drafting legislation to govern research on human subjects. Institutions often require that their researchers adhere to the declaration, and the World Association of Medical Editors, which includes representatives of 1,000 medical journals in 92 countries, requires studies that have not passed a formal ethics review to follow the declaration’s rules as a condition of publication.
“It’s very important,” says Badri Man Shrestha, a transplant surgeon who conducts clinical trials at the Sheffield Kidney Institute, UK. “We have to follow every bit of it.”