GSK linked to trials forcing Aids drugs on deprived US children

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The Independent Online

GlaxoSmithKline will be accused this week of backing drug trials in the US in which underprivileged children were forced to test Aids treatments against their will.

GlaxoSmithKline will be accused this week of backing drug trials in the US in which underprivileged children were forced to test Aids treatments against their will.

The trials have been taking place in New York under the auspices of the Administration for Children's Services, the body that looks after the welfare of children in New York City.

The ACS has an agreement with the Pediatric Aids Clinical Trials Group, supported by GSK and other drug companies, to test treatments on HIV-positive children. No tests can take place on children without parental consent and drug companies have had great difficulty in the past obtaining such consent for Aids drug trials.

However, the ACS is deemed to be the legal guardian for many HIV-positive children. According to a BBC2 documentary, Guinea Pig Kids, to be shown on Tuesday, the ACS has forced children to be involved in these trials, removing them from foster homes if the foster parent did not comply and even physically making the children take the drugs.

The programme interviewed the family of Garfield Momodu, an HIV-positive child who was removed from his grandmother and taken into care when she stopped giving him the drugs prescribed in the trials. Researchers also interviewed an unnamed child who said he and others were physically forced to take drugs through a peg-tube inserted into their stomachs.

GSK admits that it supplied drugs for four trials conducted in New York by the PACTG and also supplied drugs and funds for another trial run by Columbia University Medical Center. The drug company admitted that it and others in the industry "did know about the clinical trial design, but they are not directly involved in the recruitment, enrolment or participation of patients in these trials".

It added that the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, encouraged the studies. "Clinical trials involving children and orphans are therefore legal and not unusual," GSK said in a statement.

The ACS says children were selected for trials only after a rigorous vetting process and has denied that it used any strong-arm tactics.

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