At a glance: New BBC programme investigates drugs trials

Tell us more… Drug Trials: The Dark Side (9pm, 27 April), part of BBC 2’s This World strand, claims thousands of ‘destitute’ volunteers in India are testing drugs for Western pharmas.

What's the central theme?
It investigates how companies can recruit so many people in India, and alleges that informed consent, the cornerstone of clinical trials, is not being observed in all cases.

Who's behind the programme?
The presenter is BBC News reporter Paul Kenyon, who had his own 'undercover' series, Kenyon Confronts, and has a strong record of producing investigative TV reports. To illustrate identity theft, for instance, Kenyon managed to obtain a driving licence in the name of blind former home secretary David Blunkett.

Who's in the spotlight?
Johnson & Johnson is featured over the trial of one of its drugs in a Gujurat hospital's psychiatric unit. The firm has told the BBC it would take evidence of breaches of trust seriously and denies any wrongdoing.

Have we heard this before?
Western organisations have been using Indian citizens for drug trials over the past few years. A similar controversy arose in 2001 following Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University's testing of a cancer drug on patients in Kerala.

How have the media been previewing the programme?
Take a wild guess. The phrases 'potential human cost', 'the many risks' and 'recent calamitous drugs trial' have appeared in listings for Drug Trials: The Dark Side. The latter phrase refers to the 'elephant man' crisis at London's Northwick Park Hospital last month, after the trial of an anti-inflammatory drug went wrong.

What about the movies?
Pharma certainly has a high profile at present: recent movie The Constant Gardener put a very public – albeit fictional – boot into the global industry. And companies are bracing themselves for Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, later this year.

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