Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Feminist addendum to the glossary on the clinical trials of patented drugs

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

Patents translation at NYU is designed, in part, to foster an acquisition of new terminology in the domain of patents and their textured contexts. Every week, participants research glossaries. Early in the course, participants research terminology related to patent structure and function, seeking to understand and acquire those terms through which such functions as those of disclosure are expressed. Everyone consults the MPEP (Manual of Patent Examining Procedures) at the USPTO, the CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Title 37, and the FC (Federal Code) Title 35, seeking definitions of terms such as patent, patentability, obviousness, and expressions such as “characterized in that”. And, of course, everyone also collaboratively researches the significance of the patent alphabet soup, of all the abbreviations and acronyms, such as:  CFR, MPEP, FC, USPTO, INPI, WIPO, EPO and many more.  

In the weeks following the glossary work on the structure of patents, the focus shifts a bit, to more contextual issues surrounding patents, and particularly to what patents do in the world. In turn, the terms glossed also shift a bit, to items such as the Paris Convention, the PCT (the Patent Cooperation Treaty), the US Constitution Article 1, Section 8, and the EP (European Convention). The terms glossed, and researched, thus start to capture some of the long history of patents. And then again, the terms start to capture certain aspects of the politics of patents, when the lists of terms include such items as monopoly, access to medicine and medical technologies, and generics.  

Finally, when the focus shifts to more specific sorts of patents, such as pharmaceutical patents, the glossary work also follows suit. The patent glossaries then include such terms as FDA (Federal Drug Administration),, placebos and PK/PD (pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics). The glossaries for pharmaceutical patents even include such terms as CFR Title 21, Section 50 on the Protection of human subjects, consent forms and the IRBs (Institutional Review Boards).

However, these glossaries are necessarily very selective and incomplete. And so, it becomes wonderful when participants start to contribute by adding those terms and expressions that might be considered missing or forgotten. Beginning, this week, with a feminist addendum to the glossary on the clinical trials of patented drugs, the glossary work completes. It becomes enriched, more accurate and more encompassing of what really matters to the participants of the learning and teaching community.

In particular this week, the addendum captures the dark side of clinical testing, in Puerto Rico, in the 1930s and 1950s, prior to the international codification of the ethics of human experimentation. Thus, the glossary now includes such terms as: forced sterilization, the pill trials of Puerto Rico and psychosomatic effects
The appended terms were selected from an article written by Michelle Carroll, titled: The Dark History of the Birth Control Pill in Puerto Rico. And many more consonant terms might also be extracted and glossed, based on the award-winning book Medical Apartheid (Washington, 2006). 

Caroll, M. (2016) The Dark History of the Birth control Pill in Puerto Rico 
Washington, H. A. (2006) Medical Apartheid: the Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from colonial Times to the Present.  NY, NY: Anchor Books. 

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