Clinical Research Association Has a Problem with Toshiba’s Portrayal of Clinical Trial Participants

ACRO, the Association of Clinical Research Organizations, has a very serious issue with the new Toshiba ad. So outraged is the organization that the executive director, Douglas Peddicord, PhD, sent a letter to Toshiba executives asking them to join the conversation about a global problem that the group is addressing.

You see, in the ad (above), the main character refers to clinical trial participants as “guinea pigs” and “test monkeys.” Offended yet?! Because that’s it.

ACRO has been working with regulators globally to ensure every patient participating in clinical research, whether in India or Indiana, is treated with respect and afforded basic human rights,” Dr. Peddicord’s letter reads. “So when we saw your latest advertising commercial attempting to use humor by identifying clinical research participants in a derogatory manner, we found it extremely offensive and beneath what we believed to have been Toshiba’s corporate standards.”

“Guinea pig” jokes aren’t new. Strangely, I just recently caught the only episode of 2 Broke Girls that I ever intend to watch and the 2 Broke Girls were earning money by participating in a clinical trial. Hmm… Do we smell a fake controversy? We asked and heard back from John Lewis, ACRO’s VP of public affairs.

While ACRO would prefer that clinical trials always be represented in a factual light, the 2 Broke Girls episode is fair game, though not terribly original, as this “joke” has played out on several TV shows in recent years. Sitcoms have no social responsibility. The Toshiba ad campaign, however, is completely tasteless and over the line. This is troublesome because the disrespect it shows for clinical trial participants is damaging. Without clinical trials, there would be no new treatments for people suffering from disease and this ad campaign may discourage people from participating. As a corporation engaged in the medical industry, Toshiba has an obligation to do better and should know better. Their lack of sensitivity is disappointing.

He also pointed out that Toshiba is recruiting for clinical trials.

Toshiba’s director of marcomms, Tom Hume, also responded to ACRO with a form letter, thanking them for bringing their concerns to the company’s attention and asserting that the company had no intention of doing any harm.

It seems to us a trumped up controversy, but maybe we’re missing something. Are people who are voluntarily signing up to test products really going to care that Toshiba has poked a little fun at the practice? But at least now you know there’s an Association of Clinical Research Associations to complain to in case you are upset.

BTW, this show is really bad.