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Wednesday 23.05.2018 | Name days: Leontīne, Ligija, Lonija, Leokādija

Russians eagerly participate in medical experiments, despite risks

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Russian regulators, Russian doctors and even many patients are increasingly embracing any chance they can get to take part in medical experiments. Patients are eager to join trials because often it is the only way to receive modern medical care.

That creates a pool of willing test subjects. The government of President Vladimir V. Putin, eager to diversify Russia’s economy away from oil dependence, welcomes the jobs and high-tech investment associated with clinical trials, and has eased access for drug companies to the Russian patients as an incentive to lure in these benefits. In fact, under a law passed in 2010, ostensibly on health grounds, foreign drug companies must test medicine on Russians for it to be marketed in Russia, writes The New York Times.

Russian regulators approved 448 clinical trials in the first six months of 2012, compared to 201 in the same period a year earlier — an increase of 96 percent.

A host of pharmaceutical companies operate in Russia, including Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Novo Nordisk and Pfizer. The companies use the results of trials in Russia, as elsewhere, to help win approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Companies have turned to Russia in particular to test experimental psychiatric medicines, sometimes in the same mental health wards once used to inter Soviet dissidents. There is no indication political detainees are used today in drug testing.

Moreover, Russia is where a substance is tested on humans for the first time after animal trials. These studies are done more cheaply and swiftly in Russia than the West, as volunteers, perhaps tapping Russians’ deep sense of fatalism, are surprisingly forthcoming.

On a recent morning, Yevgeny Maksimov, a 32-year-old computer salesman, slouched in a chair and waited for his turn in these trials. On offer: $180 to take the experimental prostate drug.

He would be enclosed in a ward under observation for 24 hours, then let go and asked to return two weeks later for a follow-up.

“Why not? I take risks every day,” Mr. Maksimov said, noting that he recently flew on a Russian-made airplane.

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