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Monday, April 05, 2004
Orphans used for HIV trials
NEW YORK: GlaxoSmithKline embroiled in scandal in which babies and children were allegedly used as `laboratory animals'
ORPHANS and babies as young as three months old have been used as guinea pigs in potentially dangerous medical experiments sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.
British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline is embroiled in the scandal. The firm sponsored experiments on the children from Incarnation Children's Centre, a New York care home that specialises in treating HIV sufferers and is run by Catholic charities.
The children had either been infected with HIV or born to HIV-positive mothers. Their parents were dead, untraceable or deemed unfit to look after them.
According to documents, Glaxo has sponsored at least four medical trials since 1995 using Hispanic and black children at Incarnation.
The documents give details of all clinical trials in the US and reveal the experiments sponsored by Glaxo were designed to test the `safety and tolerance' of Aids medications, some of which have potentially dangerous side effects. Glaxo manufactures a number of drugs designed to treat HIV, including AZT.
Normally trials on children would require parental consent but, as the infants are in care, New York's authorities hold that role.
The city health department has launched an investigation into claims that more than 100 children at Incarnation were used in 36 experiments - at least four co-sponsored by Glaxo.
Some of these trials were designed to test the `toxicity' of Aids medications. One involved giving children as young as four a high-dosage cocktail of seven drugs at one time. Another looked at the reaction in six-month-old babies to a double dose of measles vaccine.
Most experiments were funded by federal agencies like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Until now Glaxo's role had not emerged. In 1997 an experiment co-sponsored by Glaxo used children from Incarnation to `obtain tolerance, safety and pharmacokinetic' data for Herpes drugs. In a more recent experiment, the children were used to test AZT. A third experiment sponsored by Glaxo and US drug firm Pfizer investigated the `long-term safety' of anti-bacterial drugs on three-month-old babies.