News & Events

View grantees in the Image Library

News about the recently published book by Dr. Roberto Abadie, a Wenner-Gren Foundation Grantee

Leslie Aiello and Roberto Abadie

Roberto Abadie, (Ph.D Graduate Center, CUNY 2006) was born in Uruguay and is a recipient of the Wadsworth International Fellowship from Wenner-Gren Foundation from 2000-2006. After completing his Doctorate he received a Wenner-Gren Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship to support the writing and publication of his dissertation into a book. The book: The Professional Guinea Pig: Big Pharma and the Risky World of Human Subjects has just been published by Duke University Press.

The book draws on ethnographic research of paid research subjects in clinical trials conducted between July 2003 and December 2004 in Philadelphia and focuses on a group of self-defined “professional guinea pigs” who earn their livelihoods as research subjects for Phase I clinical trials testing drugs being developed by the pharmaceutical industry. The book brings attention to the professionalization of research subjects and illuminates the experiences and meanings associated with being a paid subject and the effect of financial compensation on the way volunteers understand and deal with risks as well as on the ethical arrangements involved in the protection of human subjects in biomedical research. For comparative purposes the research also then looks at a group of HIV patients volunteering in Phase II and III trials. Dr. Abadie argues that the significant financial compensation offered in Phase I trials has created a new group of vulnerable professional research subjects and distorts volunteers’ perception of risk while at the same time exposing them to adverse drug effects and possible long term risks from synergistic drug interactions.  

Roberto Abadie was born in Montevideo, Uruguay and received a BA in Sociology at the State University. After working at a community based organization that focused on AIDS prevention he returned to school to pursue an MA in Anthropology in Canada.  In 2000 with the support of a Wadsworth International Fellowship he entered into the Ph. D program in Anthropology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. In 2003 Ellen Roche died in a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins and this led him to to think about the issues of risk, body commodification and the ethics of recruiting healthy paid subjects to test drug safety in America and he began his dissertation research among a group of self-declared professional trial subjects in Philadelphia.

Dr Abadie was a  postdoctoral fellowship at the Bioethics Program at the Mayo Clinic following his PhD and then returned to the CUNY Graduate Center in 2009 as a Visiting Scholar at the Health Sciences Doctoral Programs.

To watch a short video about the book recently featured by Time Magazine's click here

Further reviews and/or news about the book can be found at:

The Chronicle of Higher Eduction
The New Scientist

Inside Higher Education




Return to Wenner-Gren Home Page