Politics Polarizing Issues In Needle-Exchange Study

POINTED ASSERTION: Dennis Fisher contends that his clinical trial examining methods of obtaining clean syringes is both ethical and valid. Though a federally appointed panel of scientists and ethicists in December okayed the continuation of a controversial needle-exchange clinical trial at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, questions still linger over the ethical and scientific nature of the study. At the same time, the project offers a view of how science can be politicized. Despite survey

Steven Benowitz
Feb 2, 1997

Dennis Fisher
POINTED ASSERTION: Dennis Fisher contends that his clinical trial examining methods of obtaining clean syringes is both ethical and valid.
Though a federally appointed panel of scientists and ethicists in December okayed the continuation of a controversial needle-exchange clinical trial at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, questions still linger over the ethical and scientific nature of the study. At the same time, the project offers a view of how science can be politicized. Despite surveys showing the public would support clean-needle programs, which researchers say are effective in reducing disease, offering needles-through needle exchange or at pharmacies-is still perceived as encouraging drug use.

Study after study shows that needle-exchange programs (NEPs), in which drug users trade used syringes for clean ones, reduce the spread of blood-borne disease among injecting drug addicts. Several European countries, including France, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, as well as Australia and Canada, have had...

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