Ethics and drug-trial recruitment by health professionals

Ethics and drug-trial recruitment

A recent article in The New Yorker by Carl Elliott, a professor at the Centre for Bioethics at the University of Minnesota, asks questions about the ethics of recruiting healthy and cash-hungry “guinea pigs” to support the drug testing economy. In recent years, pharmaceutical companies have moved drug trials to the private sector where more than seventy percent are now conducted. There’s a lot of money on the table (thousands of dollars per subject) for recruitment and the potential to attract health professionals to participate in an area of questionable ethics. Specifically, Elliot discusses the situation of Frank Abuzzahab, a de-licensed physician in the U.S who now operates as a psychopharmacology researcher. He lost his licence through disciplinary action: he was deemed to be responsible for the injuries or deaths of forty-six patients under his care who he recruited for drug trials.

Health professionals are in a position of authority when dealing with clients, or even the public. Their codes of ethics place the interests of the client ahead of their own.

What’s your view on the ethics of this situation? Is it appropriate for doctors, nurses or other health professionals to do some moonlighting on the side like this or not?