Inside the World of Human Guinea Pigs

October 6, 2010 | Book Beat, Graduate Center

Since 1980, when Phase 1 drug tests were banned in the United States, the pharmaceutical industry has relied on medical volunteers to participate in safety trials of new drugs. In his recently published book, “The Professional Guinea Pig: Big Pharma and the Risky World of Human Subjects,” Robert Abadie, an anthropologist and a visiting scholar in the health sciences program at the Graduate Center, examines this subculture of paid “volunteers.” “Most of these guys have 50 to 100 trials over the course of five to ten years,” says Abadie, who spent 18 months living among some of them in youth hostels and group houses in Philadelphia. “My worry is that 20 to 30 years from now these drugs, which are toxic, may interact with each other to create serious health problems.”
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