AIDS activist mobilises press over Ditan hospital drug trials
Civil Society | Health
A front page story in the April 22 edition of respected weekly newspaper, Nanfang Zhoumo (南方周末), is indicative of the growing potential for Chinese NGOs to work with the state controlled mass media.
Beijing’s Ditan hospital, acc-ording to the story, last year conducted an AIDS drug trial on patients who believed they were receiving tried and tested treatment rather than part-icipating in an experiment.
The drug, ‘TNP,’ was supplied by the Viral Genetics Company and New York International Commerce Group. According to Chinese experts consulted by the newspaper, neither company had significant exp-erience in pharmaceuticals. Moreover, their claims to have patented the drug and to have published previous research findings on it both appeared to be spurious.
Renowned AIDS activist, Wan Yanhai (万延海) heard from villagers in Henan that four patients had died during the trials. After visiting Ditan to investigate, Wan wrote a letter to the Medical Ethics Committee of the AIDS Pre-vention Centre, and contacted journalists.
Ditan managers said that patients had signed consent forms, read out by a repre-sentative of the US companies. However, villagers are quoted as saying that they did not understand the forms and ‘didn’t even know how to sign our own names. Someone wrote them for us and we copied them.’ Wan Yanhai is also quoted as pointing to discrepancies in the translat-ion of the form from the English original, noting that ‘study’ had been rendered as ‘treatment’.
The Medical Ethics Comm-ittee has ruled that the patient deaths could not be attributed to the drug, and that there had been ‘no serious ethical breach.’ The State Food and Drug Administration is now conducting a further invest-igation.