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Science, politics, and health in the brave new world of pharmaceutical carcinogenic risk assessment: Technical progress or cycle of regulatory capture?

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  • Abraham, John
  • Ballinger, Rachel
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    Abstract

    The carcinogenicity (cancer-inducing potential) of pharmaceuticals is an important risk factor for health when considering whether thousands of patients on drug trials or millions/billions of consumers in the marketplace should be exposed to a new drug. Drawing on fieldwork involving over 50 interviews and documentary research spanning 2002–2010 in Europe and the US, and on regulatory capture theory, this article investigates how the techno-regulatory standards for carcinogenicity testing of pharmaceuticals have altered since 1998. It focuses on the replacement of long-term carcinogenicity tests in rodents (especially mice) with shorter-term tests involving genetically-engineered mice (GEM). Based on evidence regarding financial/organizational control, methodological design, and interpretation of the validation and application of these new GEM tests, it is argued that regulatory agencies permitted the drug industry to shape such validation and application in ways that prioritized commercial interests over the need to protect public health. Boundary-work enabling industry scientists to define some standards of public-health policy facilitated such capture. However, as the scientific credibility of GEM tests as tools to protect public health by screening out carcinogens became inescapably problematic, a regulatory resurgence, impelled by reputational concerns, exercised more control over industry’s construction and use of the tests, The extensive problems with GEM tests as public-health protective regulatory science raises the spectre that alterations to pharmaceutical carcinogenicity-testing standards since the 1990s may have been boundary-work in which the political project of decreasing the chance that companies’ products are defined as carcinogenic has masqueraded as techno-science.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953612004686
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 75 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 8 ()
    Pages: 1433-1440

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:75:y:2012:i:8:p:1433-1440

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    Related research

    Keywords: Drug testing; Animal models; Pharmaceutical industry; International regulation; Drug safety regulation; Carcinogenic;

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    1. Abraham, John, 1998. "Regulating the cancer-inducing potential of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: Some lessons from the 1970s and 1980s," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 39-51, January.
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