Alert as drugs trial ends in horror
Roland Hancock and Amanda Crook
March 15, 2006
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WORRIES: Student Tom Barlow. WORRIES: Student Tom Barlow.
HUNDREDS of students across Greater Manchester are being targeted for drugs trials it was claimed, after tests in London left six men fighting for their lives.
The six were rushed to hospital from an independent medical research unit on the same site after reacting badly to a drug being developed to treat chronic inflammatory conditions and leukaemia.
It was reported that one victim is a student and his head had swollen to three times its normal size.
Today, the six remained in intensive care. Two of them are in a “critical condition” while the others are described as “serious but stable”.
Parexel, the clinical research company running the trial, said it had operated within regulatory guidelines and that such adverse reactions to drugs were extremely rare.
About 600 people a year in Manchester are paid up to ‘3,000 by a different testing company – Medeval – to trial a range of experimental drugs.
Medeval, the city’s main testing company, is said to target students, offering free Sky Sports at its 80-bed centre, next to the University of Manchester.
Now, following the incident in London, Manchester University’s Student Union is to consider banning drug companies from advertising in magazines distributed to students across Greater Manchester.
Student Union leaders first raised concerns about the testing last month and called for clearer information on the risks involved in trials and compensation when things go wrong.
But Medeval says none of its volunteers has suffered severe side-effects and any risks are clearly explained. Tom Barlow, the university’s Student Union communications officer, said: “We have been concerned about the dangers of drug trials for some time.
“There is no doubt students are targeted by drug-trial companies, they have even advertised in union publications. But that’s something we are going to have to reconsider after what has happened in London. Students are hard-up, the changes in fees have made some people desperate for cash, and the drug testing companies are exploiting that.
“I was horrendously poor and I was offered ‘2,000 to take part in a large study, which would have kept me for an entire year. I’ve registered before now and the forms are not clear enough. There are lots of disclaimers and you need to be really clued up to understand these things.
“I know people who have done these trials, one person in particular who suffered from insomnia for two months after he was tested on,” he said.
Medeval was founded in 1983 as a six-bed investigations unit and lab within the university’s pharmacy department.
It moved to its current premises at Manchester Science Park in 1989.
Currently, it is testing a range of drugs including cardiac and antibiotic treatments. It has never trialled the drugs involved in the London study.
Steve Toon, senior vice president at Medeval, said: “There are always some minor things like nausea and rashes, but the biggest risk is from people fainting as they have a blood test taken. Anybody taking part in a trial knows there is some element of risk. Students tend to be more educated, so can make confident decisions to go ahead and take part.”