Experimental Labour—Offshoring Clinical Trials to China
- East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal
- Duke University Press
- Volume 2, Number 1, 2008
- pp. 73-92
- Additional Information
The State Food and Drug Administration of China has reported a dramatic increase in multicentre, multinational clinical trials over the past several years. This is in keeping with a growing trend towards the off-shore outsourcing of clinical trials from North America and Western Europe to 'nontraditional locations' such as Eastern Europe, China, and India. Within China, the post-socialist reform of health care, internal divisions of labour and the politicization of the healthcare system have all created the conditions under which contract clinical trial work is becoming an imperative both for hospitals and the growing number of working uninsured. The paper brings together a critical insight into current theories of bioeconomic innovation with new political economies of informal labour and offshoring. It argues that the clinical trial phase in the production of bioeconomic value is routinely overlooked in scholarly accounts but is key to understanding the speculative overinvestment and translational difficulties of the pharmaceutical industries today. As a way of reformulating the problem, the paper suggests that human subject experimentation would be more fruitfully reconfigured as a form of labour—experimental or clinical labour. The research hospital clinic therefore emerges as an export labour zone in 'experimental body work.'