Medical Experiments in Jordan

by Adam Nicky

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Illegitimate Children in Jordan Become Lab Rats for Pharmaceutical Companies

AMMAN – Jordan’s Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour made a bizarre official visit to a drugs testing laboratory within days of being appointed by King Abdullah II to lead the country through economic and political turmoil.

The liberal Ensour’s top priority is to steer the country through tricky parliament elections and tackle its economic plight.

While visiting the private hospital of al Hanan, where drug tests are conducted on illegitimate children, the premier said he wanted to make sure that testing on humans was in line with the regulations, after questions were raised over research centers’ and pharmaceutical companies’ practices.

According to Ahmed Ayasra, one of the drug-testing volunteers, the impact on health could appear in months or years to come, when it is too late to claim for compensation or even seek treatment.

The dark-skinned 24-year-old looked haggard, with sunken eyes as he spoke about his experience with the drug testing. He signed a contract worth 300 Jordanian dinars, under which he would stay a few days in a private hospital to test drugs varying from pain killers to lotions and Viagra-like drugs.

Ayasra grew up in a government care center, along with dozens of other children abandoned by their parents. He is believed to have been born as a result of an illegitimate relationship.

“I suffered from headaches and lack of sleep when they gave medication they said was a pain killer, but I’m already feeling pain in my bones and don’t feel well in general,” he told The Media Line.

Human rights activists and some of the testing subjects told The Media Line that the premier’s visit opened the public’s eyes to illegal and immoral practices by pharmaceutical companies and research centers.

Ayasra said he filed a lawsuit against the research center, but was forced to drop charges after threats by police.

“Targeting a certain group of people with limited financial income is a gross violation of human rights and should be banned,” said human rights activist Abdullah Khatib.

“While these men are over 18, they have limited, if any option but to accept being tested on. They have no food to eat, no training or proper education. This is what is illegal and immoral about this practice,” said Khatib, who is also a private physician.

Officials from the Jordan Food and Drug Administration (JFDA) said they license such tests for local companies, but only according to specific rules. The testing is conducted on behalf of international and local pharmaceutical companies.

JFDA Director General Hayel Obeidat said the government is following up on these companies’ activities and they are working within legal boundaries.

“The laboratories and hospitals are working according to international laws. We regularly monitor their activities,” he said.

However, he declined to say if the government has taken action against any research company, or if there have been violations in the past.

A spokesman for graduates of social care centers, Ala Teibi, accused pharmaceutical companies and research centers of targeting this group to avoid legal repercussions.

“The difficult economic situation among this group due to high unemployment pushes them into the arms of research centers,” he told The Media Line.

A source in a large Jordanian pharmaceutical company said the firm is trying to reproduce drugs made by international companies to sell under new brand names. He said Jordanian pharmaceutical companies are among the leading firms in the region in rebranding, but they need to test the drugs before producing them industrially.

“Jordan has a reputation of advanced pharmaceutical companies, therefore any medicine must be tested well before being exported or put on the local market,” said the source.

He noted that the government, including the Health Ministry, encourage the practice but try to impose strict conditions on testing.

Jordan’s Health Minister Abdul Latif Wreikat said such experiments are common in every country worldwide. He pointed out that the companies follow the Declaration of Helsinki – Ethical Principles for Medical Research Involving Human Subjects. The declaration makes it a physician’s duty to promote and safeguard the health of patients, including those involved in medical research.

“Each subject receives life insurance while being tested, as well as guarantees of treatment for any side-effects that could incur as a result of the drug, and this is what is being done in Jordan,” the minister told The Media Line.

Experts say the duration of testing contracts is limited. When an experiment is completed, some of these young men spend months reeling from the effects of the drugs, while the companies involved decline to provide treatment.

For Ayasra, the future remains clouded in uncertainty as he continues to suffer new symptoms. But he is clear about one thing: “I will never accept being treated as a lab rat. I would work day and night instead. I only hope the testing will not have a detrimental impact on my health,” he concluded.

Copyright © 2012 The Media Line. All Rights Reserved.

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