A Clinical Trial, A Suicide, and the Strange Recent History of Anti-Psychotic Drugs


Location: McKenna Hall

Carl Elliott, professor of bioethics, University of Minnesota

Elliot is the author of White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine (Beacon Press, 2010).

When a young man committed suicide in an industry-sponsored clinical trial of atypical antipsychotic drugs at the University of Minnesota in 2004, critics charged that he had been coerced into the study. They may be right, but the ethical problem is even larger. Today, pharmaceutical companies are designing and analyzing clinical trials not to produce reliable scientific data, but to ensure that their own drugs look superior to the competition. These trials are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and distributed by drug reps as a way of marketing the drugs. This raises the question: When is it ethically justified to enroll human subjects in marketing studies?

This is the spring Schmitt Lecture sponsored by Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture.