'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Guinea Pig Kids 

In a recent post, The King of Zembla flagged quite an incredible story that has, until recently, only received press attention in the UK; see, for instance, "UK firm tried HIV drug on orphans", The Observer, 4/4/04.

The conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline funded experiments in which Hispanic and black HIV-infected babies were subjected to radical new AIDS treatments to gauge the "safety and tolerance" of experimental medications. The children were orphans, wards of Incarnation Children's Center, a New York-based charity. With no parents to grant permission for these drug trials, permission was granted by the state of New York.

According to The Observer the medical establishment, including presumably GlaxoSmithKline, claims that the trials "enabled these children to obtain state-of-the-art therapy they would otherwise not have received for potentially fatal illnesses" while "health campaigners" argue the tests amounted to experimentation rather than treatment:

[Health campaigners] claim many of the experiments were 'phase 1 trials' - among the most risky - and that HIV tests for babies were not a reliable indicator of actual infection and therefore toxic drugs could have been given to healthy infants. HIV drugs are similar to those used in chemotherapy and can have serious side-effects.

The above Observer article is eight months old, but the story has been resuscitated in the UK by a BBC documentary called "Guinea Pig Kids" that aired on Tuesday. Reuters picked up the story from the angle of covering the controversy surrounding the BBC documentary, but it remains to be seen if the controversy will cross the Atlantic.

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