Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ethics of military drug testing questioned

Ethics of military drug testing questioned

Degree of 'voluntary' participation raises concerns
David R. Sands (Contact)
Sunday, June 22, 2008

Colombian and Indonesian troops have been drafted to test new anti-malaria drugs. South African researchers used Tanzanian soldiers to study the effectiveness of an unorthodox treatment for HIV/AIDS.

And a trial conducted on some 2,000 Nepalese soldiers for a new hepatitis-E vaccine by a major U.S. drug company sparked public protests and complaints that the Nepalese troops were being used as human guinea pigs.

An investigation by The Washington Times and ABC News, which on Tuesday reported a troubled U.S. government program using military veterans to test potentially dangerous drugs, has focused new attention on what medical ethicists say is an especially difficult problem. The U.S. military is not the only one that has had to deal with the consequences.

Military personnel and veterans represent two particularly tempting populations for medical study, researchers say. A large sample of participants, complete with detailed medical histories and personal data, can be quickly assembled. Their behavior, travel and personal habits are far easier to control during the study period.

But that high level of control also makes military medical testing a moral minefield, ethicists say. Just how much freedom does a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine in the ranks have to refuse to participate in a medical trial when asked by a superior officer?

"Considering that the majority of defense-related research is 'non-therapeutic' and ... is typically carried out on healthy volunteers, the standard of legal consent is high," according to recent study of military medical issues by lawyer Ashley R. Melson.

Earlier this year, Britain's Ministry of Defense paid out more than $5.9 million to settle claims from 369 veterans subjected to tests at the government's Porton Down chemical-warfare center. The veterans claimed in a lawsuit that they had been exposed to nerve gas and mustard gas in trials there, leading to a wide variety of health problems.

Porton Down, believed to be the oldest chemical-warfare research site in the world, has tested some 25,000 British servicemen since its establishment in 1916.

In Nepal in the mid-1990s, an institute of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research set up a field station to test a new hepatitis vaccine licensed to pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.

After popular protests forced the cancellation of plans to test the vaccine on Nepalese citizens, researchers in 2001 turned to 2,000 Royal Nepalese Army soldiers at a military hospital in Katmandu.

The U.S. Embassy strongly defended the tests, saying the Nepalese soldiers had volunteered for the trial and denying a link between the research and U.S. military aid to the poor Asian nation. The U.S. government had given tens of millions of dollars to the government as it battled a Maoist insurgency.

But critics said the Nepalese military was unlikely to refuse a request from its biggest patron to provide recruits for the medical study.

The money, training and equipment supplied by the U.S. military to Nepal's army "threatened the voluntary nature of the institutional and individual participation in the trial," medical researcher Jason Andrews wrote in the American Journal of Bioethics.

cRita Tiwari contributed to this report


This was my reply to the reporter that wrote this story, this nation refuses to address the issue of the enlisted men they tested in similar experiments as Porton Downs, at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland from 1955 thru 1975.

Your article talked about Porton Downs and the British govt compensating their "volunteers" for being used in "drug experiments" right now no one is talking about the enlisted men used at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland from 1955 thru 1975 in experiments using 254 substances from chemical weapons Sarin, mustard agents, LSD, PCP, Scopolomine, Ecstacy, etc.

I realize I am dismissed as a "raving, agenda driven person" well if you had been used in classified experiments and the VA refised to address the medical problems caused by the long term consequences of the experiments I vounteered for at age 18, and have left me totally disabled by age 45, naturally I am angry at the government.

Of the 7120 men used at Edgewood during the 20 years, the last health study shows that 40% of them are assumed to be deceased. 3098 men could not be found in FY 2000, the compnay that did the survey had access to IRS, VA and SS databases, men aged 45-65 are either paying taxes or drawing federal disability benefits, they don't just disappear. Of the 4022 survivors they did locate, 54% of them reported being disabled, that combines for a 74.43% death and disability rate, and still DOD and the VA dismiss any nexus to the experiments, that is just not reasonable. There are 2 studies from reputable organizations, that National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) that show the effects of the long term health problems from the chemical weapons exposures. This is the link to Dr Page's study in March 2003 based on the FY 2000 data gathering, this is the NIH Study from Jan 1, 1994 then finally this is the SIPRI study
Sir, I have the names of 18 other Edgewood "test vets" and their e mail addresses you can contact them about this, since I am a "liability" publicly when it comes to this issue, but these other men are not as public as I am about speaking about this.

Last year the last living researcher from the experiments wrote a book about them, Colonel James Ketchum, US Army Retired. He spent most of his career at Edgewood doing research and worked for DR Van Sim and with DR Fred Siddell.
I bought a copy of it last year DR Ketchum signed it and on Dec 17,2007 I was able to get President Bill Clinton to sign it at a veterans event, as he apologized for the experiments done by the government during the Cold War and the Tuskeegee Sysphlis experiments and the Nuclear tests done on civilans and military.

Canada and Britain have both compensated their "test veterans" they ran similar experiments at Gagetown, since they have National Health Care they gave each veteran or their surviving spouse 24,000 dollars, why is the United States the only nation to ignore, it's test veterans. I will be happy to give you the names of the other veterans, they are all like me, they can't get the VA to deal with them on their claims for medical problems caused by the expsoures. Thank you for your time.

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