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Parents 'pimp' kids for swine flu test
05-29-2010, 06:14 PM,
Parents 'pimp' kids for swine flu test
Quote:PARENTS are enrolling children as young as nine months in drug trials in exchange for hundreds of dollars.

The cash payments, which could breach national ethical guidelines, will ignite debate over how much should be paid to cover "reasonable expenses" of trial participants.

An industry whistleblower alerted The Sunday Telegraph after some parents were netting $900 by enrolling three children at a time into an H1N1 flu vaccine trial.

"I think when you start offering money the whole altruistic thing goes out the window," the whistleblower said.

"You just get parents pimping out their children for a quick buck."

GPs are also being paid a fee, understood to be at least $200, to refer young patients to the drug-testing clinics.

Parents of healthy children aged between six months and 10 years are receiving $300 to test the safety and effectiveness of a new H1N1 vaccine produced by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

The trial involves two needles, two blood tests and medical monitoring for each child.

An informed consent form that parents must sign first acknowledges side effects may include pain, headaches, fever, bruising, swollen glands and chest tightness. More rare reactions could result in allergic responses, nerve pain, convulsions, neurological disorders and autoimmune diseases.

Another trial for an asthma drug is offering a reimbursement of $600 for those aged 12 and over, with testing at centres in Hornsby and Blacktown in NSW.

The H1N1 trial is being tested at centres in Kippa Ring and Caboolture in Queensland.

A spokeswoman for AusTrials, the company which operates both trials for GSK, confirmed it paid reimbursements of $300 for the vaccine trial and $600 for the asthma trial. She said the vaccine trial involved three visits, the asthma trial involved 13.

But the whistleblower said children were effectively being used as lab rats.

"Parents are giving consent on their children's behalf," the source said.

"(The centres) were getting some families turn up with three or four kids, then you walk away with nearly a grand at the end of three visits."

Offering inducements that encourage people to take part in a clinical trial is "ethically unacceptable", according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians says it is "inadvisable" for a child to participate in a trial unless there is some benefit or the parent is making a decision in their best interest. The decision must also be free of "inappropriate incentives".

Australian Medical Association ethics committee chairman Dr Peter Ford said parents whose children took part in trials should not be motivated by money.

So far, 110 children have been recruited for the H1N1 vaccine trial but none have signed up for the asthma trial yet, the AusTrials spokeswoman said.

It is not clear whether GlaxoSmithKline, which was unavailable for comment, is aware of the reimbursements.
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