§ Mr. Skinner
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will now introduce legislation banning private drug-testing companies from carrying out experiments on human volunteers; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
We have no plans to do this at present.
Guidance has been given to doctors on the use of volunteers for the testing of new drugs by the Medical Research Council in 1963, the World Medical Association in 1964—revised in 1975—and the Royal College of Physicians in 1967 and 1973. I understand that the Royal College of Physicians is at present revising and updating its guidance. The Medicines Commission is also to discuss such testing shortly, and we will consider carefully any advice it may offer.
The present guidance requires that all proposals for drug testing must be approved by a properly constituted ethical committee containing lay and medical members, including doctors experienced in clinical investigation. It also stipulates that volunteers must be given a full explanation of the proposed procedure, including the risks, and must feel completely free to decline to participate or to withdraw at any stage. Doctors failing to observe this guidance may be open to disciplinary action by the General Medical Council, and, in the case of failure to obtain informed consent, to sanctions under the common law.
The Government would strongly disapprove of any programme of drug testing which did not comply with these well-established procedures.