Commentary | Letters: Dying kids, nude pics

Brevity is not always best

Re: “Made for the rich, tested on the poor” (Sci-Tech, Sept. 2)

Having participated in a discussion group about the ethics of clinical trials, I was interested in last Tuesday’s article entitled “Made for the rich, tested on the poor.” But it didn’t stand up to scrutiny. The article misrepresented the facts of the situation by omitting crucial information. Basic and highly important facts, such as the total number of subjects involved in the trials and the number of them that were seriously ill beforehand, were not addressed.

According to a Times article on the same incident, the 49 infants who died were from a sample of 4,142, some of whom were already very ill (ie. they may have died anyways). I’m not going to discuss the ethics of administrating drugs to terminally ill children, but that little tidbit should have been reported.

And it wasn’t the only omission: the 49 deaths in the trial represent a 1.2 per cent mortality rate. According to the World Fact Book, India’s infant mortality is 3.2 per cent. To be clear, only 2,728 of the subjects were under the age of one (the maximum age at which a death is included in the infant mortality rate). But it’s possible that participation in the trials didn’t increase the risk of death at all. The evidence is inconclusive: as a spokesperson quoted in the Times’ article pointed out, we don’t even know how many of the 49 deaths occurred in the control group!

I agree that using infants as guinea pigs is ethically problematic, and that drug companies may be taking advantage of the uneducated poor. And the death of a child is always a tragedy. But by misrepresenting the facts in their article, The Daily does little to support these sentiments. What good is a “science” section that doesn’t accurately report the facts?

Michael Garfinkle

Med I

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Hi

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kathryn

the internet

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