Inside the human guinea pig capital of North America
These volunteers are in the right spot for this odd line of work: Montreal is the clinical testing capital of North America. Over half of these tests are performed for drugs for sale in Europe, where in many cases stricter laws and higher costs make such testing prohibitive. In Canada, a menu of name brand drugs that ring up annual sales of $28 billion are set to move to the generic market over the next three years, and each one must be tested on human guinea pigs beforehand. There is a booming industry ahead for Quebec’s contract research organizations, hired by drug companies to recruit volunteers and test their drugs, including Algorithme and competitors Anapharm and MDS Pharma Service, the three biggest in the country. Internal Health Canada documents, newly obtained by Maclean’s, show how the government agency was seemingly unaware of the extent of a tuberculosis outbreak in 2005 during a test until three months after the fact-when an American journalist called looking for answers.
The 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world all have operations in Quebec, and with them have come dozens of generic drug companies, who, like the name brands, require fast, reliable, government-sanctioned testing of their wares. The federal government further obliged these companies in 2001, when the clinical trial review period was slashed; suddenly it took half the time for pharmaceutical companies to have their drug tests approved by Health Canada. Health Canada’s oversight was put to the test in the fall of 2005, when a volunteer with tuberculosis infected 20 people during an Anapharm-sponsored study. In the of fall 2005, Anapharm had recruited 20 subjects in a clinical test of ISA 247, an experimental immunosuppressant drug produced by Alberta-based Isotechnika. Apart from a Health Canada list of non-binding guidelines suggesting companies should test patients for tuberculosis, little has changed since.
During a recent visit to an Algorithme clinical trial, Maclean’s found several participants who drank alcohol and took prescription medication when both are explicitly forbidden during the testing period. Many of these participants, some who were decades-long veterans of the trade, were well versed in what the company tested for-and what it didn’t.
Nourishing Ideas: Pig’s Blood
Although I’ve served a variety of sausages at Park Kitchen in the last five years, I had never put blood sausage on the menu before now. The composition of pig’s blood is mostly water at 77%, with 7.2% albumin, 14.5% globulins, 0.3% fibrin, 0.2% fat and 0.8% other odds and ends. In traditional blood puddings, the blood is poached with cream and eggs, in addition to other solids for structure, usually cooked onions and bacon. According to God’s law, it is forbidden in Jewish and Muslim cultures, although even religious nations have culinary traditions using the blood of animals, especially that perfect culinary creature, the pig. Throughout western Europe, there are various sausages or puddings made from pig’s blood; the Spanish morcilla, Catalonian botifarra, the French boudin noir, sometimes garnished with apples, the German blutwurst, the Polish kaszanka, usually containing buckwheat, the Irish drisheen, made from sheep’s blood, cream, oatmeal and tansy, the Finnish preparation of mustamakkara, a blood sausage with ground pork and crushed rye, usually eaten with lingonberry jam.
Swedish blodpalt is a potato dumpling enriched with blood, and Finland also makes a mykyrokka, a potato and offal soup containing myky, a dumpling of rye flour and blood. In the far east as well, the Koreans make soondae, the Filipino’s make dinuguan, a spicy meat stew with pig’s blood and rice cakes. In Viet Nam, doi huyet is a pig’s blood sausage make with herbs and shrimp paste. The Thai’s have a spicy curry mee, and there is the famous Taiwanese ti hoeh koe, a pig’s blood cake made with sticky rice, then rolled in ground peanuts and cilantro, served on a stick! Pig’s blood cookery is nothing new to the world.
Elsewhere in Portland, Xocolatl de David has a wonderful pig’s blood chocolate ganache, and Le Pigeon restaurant has served a very tasty pig’s blood pappardelle. Portland’s culinary talents are exploring pig’s blood.
Animal handling safety and health procedures
Air exchanges within the animal rooms, temperature, humidity, light and noise levels should be maintained within limits compatible with the health and well being of both workers and animals. Manual handling is an integral part of animal house work so care is required to minimise the risk of muscoluskeletal injury. Written Standard Operating Procedures should include the demarcation and restrictions applying to different areas and animals as well as the routine procedures applicable to each. New workers and researchers should be supervised by animal care staff until they have demonstrated their ability to work with the animals without damage or stress to the animal itself and to themselves. Although zoonotic diseases are not common, the prevention, detection, and eradication of zoonotic diseases from the animal facility are a primary concern of the entire animal care staff.
The use of restraint devices is sometimes necessary for the welfare of the animals and the safety of persons handling the animals. These include not eating, drinking, or applying cosmetics or contact lenses around animals or animal care areas, wearing gloves when handling animals or their tissues, taking care not to rub the face with contaminated hands or gloves, and hand washing after each animal contact. In the January 1998 publication by the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Preventing Asthma in Animal Handlers, several strategies for preventing exposure to animal allergens are discussed. Preventing exposure Animal handlers should take steps to protect themselves from exposure to animals and animal products. Performing animal manipulations within ventilated hoods or safety cabinets when possible.
Installing ventilated animal cage racks or filter-top animal cages. In addition to worker safety, animal welfare is a paramount consideration in selecting the anaesthetic for each particular species of animal and each operation carried out.