Thursday, December 02, 2004
American press coverage has been next to nonexistent, but the story is getting major play in the UK. On Tuesday BBC-2 ran a documentary entitled "Guinea Pig Kids," which has further details on the city agency that turned helpless kids over to the tender mercies of GlaxoSmithKline:
Orphans and babies as young as three months old have been used as guinea pigs in potentially dangerous medical experiments sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, an Observer investigation has revealed.
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 obtained by The Observer, 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 medical establishment has defended the trials arguing they enabled these children to obtain state-of-the-art therapy they would otherwise not have received for potentially fatal illnesses.
However, health campaigners argue there is a difference between providing the latest drugs and experimentation. They 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.
Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, said the children had been treated like 'laboratory animals'.
'These are some of the most vulnerable individuals in the country and there appears to be a policy of giving drug firms access to them,' she said. 'Throughout the history of medical research we have seen prisoners abused, the mentally ill abused and now poor kids in a care home.'
Sharav has urged the US Food and Drug Administration to investigate and has demanded full disclosure of all adverse effects suffered by the children, including deaths. Brooklyn Democrat councillor Bill de Blasio is also demanding that New York's Administration for Children's Services, which approved the trials, reveal who gave consent and on what grounds.
The ACS, as it is known, was granted far-reaching powers in the 1990s by then-Republican Mayor Rudi Giuliani, after a particularly horrific child killing.To quote George Bush's favorite philosopher: And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels . . . .
Within the shortest of periods, literally thousands of children were being rounded up and placed in foster care.
"They're essentially out of control," said family lawyer David Lansner. "I've had many ACS case workers tell me: 'We're ACS, we can do whatever we want' and they usually get away with it."
Having taken children into care, the ACS was now, effectively, their parent and could do just about anything it wished with them . . . .
At Incarnation, if a child refused to take the medicines offered, he or she was force-fed through a peg-tube inserted into the stomach.
When [former Incarnation employee] Jacklyn Hoerger later fostered two children from the home where she used to work with a view to adopting them, she discovered just how powerful the ACS was.
"It was a Saturday morning and they had come a few times unannounced," she said. "So when I opened the door I invited them in and they said that this wasn't a happy visit. At that point they told me that they were taking the children away. I was in shock."
Jacklyn, a trained paediatric nurse, had taken the fatal step of taking the children off the drugs, which had resulted in an immediate boost to their health and happiness.
As a result she was branded a child abuser in court. She has not been allowed to see the children since.