WASHINGTON, Aug 13 ( – In a paper funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Mental Health and Drug Abuse, Dr. Robert Levine of Yale University argues for the watering down of international standards for research on humans, allowing unethical testing on Third World subjects. Published in Thursday’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the paper argues that the Declaration of Helsinki rules requiring human research subjects receive the best medical care regardless of cost are impractical.

Levin argues for a new set of “ethical” criteria which would allow human experimental subjects in the developing world to be given a placebo instead of the experimental drug,  even for such severe dieseases as AIDS. The suggestion has received condemnation from other ethicists who argue that Levine’s proposal would only “water down the declaration until it meets the low ethical standards many researchers currently practice.” Dr. Peter Lurie who discovered 15 government-funded studies using unethical research in the developing world suggests the “solution is to step up enforcement of the declaration” rather than follow the government’s suggestion as voiced by Levine.

Of note Levine was the co-chairman of the 1993 CIOMS/WHO International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects (Geneva), with special focus on research in Third World countries and epidemiological research.

With files from Nando Times.