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BOSTON — Two rows of plastic cocoons line the walls of the neonatal intensive care unit, sheltering babies so tiny, their little hands can’t wrap around their parents’ index fingers. Many have been treated with multiple medications in their short lives: antibiotics, anesthetics, narcotics, diuretics.

And most of the drugs coursing through their fragile bodies have not been approved for use in newborns.


That’s not just the case here at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center. It’s a global problem. Pharma companies are afraid to test drugs on babies because they’re so vulnerable, and because the risk of liability is so high. Parents and doctors say they’re wary of enlisting newborns as “guinea pigs” in clinical trials.

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