Socialist Worker

Human guinea pigs are fighting back

Issue No. 1857

FAMILIES FROM Nigeria are trying to take drugs giant Pfizer to court for using their children in botched drug trials seven years ago. Last week the 20 families were fighting to have their claim for compensation heard in a New York court.

Pfizer flew out to Nigeria to set up clinical trials after a deadly bacterial meningitis swept through the country. Two hundred desperately ill children took part in the trial. At least 11 children died, while others suffered severe brain damage. The victims' families accused Pfizer of exploiting the health disaster to conduct trials on their new drug, Trovan.

Trovan had not been approved for use in the US. It still has not been approved for use on children and is not sold in Europe. Other free treatment was available at the same hospital where the Trovan was administered. The families say they were never told about it. They are not the only ones to suffer from such drug trials.

'The globalisation of human experimentation is clearly real,' said columnist David Concar in New Scientist last week. An increasing number of drug companies are moving their clinical experiments to poor countries.

It is difficult to find out exactly how many trials are now taking place in poor countries. But the number of overseas investigators listed in applications for new drug approvals in America has increased sixfold.

In the Frame - No. 16 Sir Jeremy Beecham

WELL-heeled lawyer Jeremy Beecham sits on the Labour Party National Executive Committee. He helped kill off discussion about George Galloway's suspension from the Labour Party.

He chairs the Local Government Association, representing local government employers. He is spearheading a major assault on council workers' pay.

Fight reaches higher level

CRANE DRIVER Stuart Forrester had to lock himself in his cab 60 metres above ground just to get paid. The one-man protest last week was sparked by hire firm HTC Plant's refusal to pay Stuart two days wages.

Stuart said, 'The company is refusing to pay me despite the fact I have the timesheets proving that I did the work.' After two days HTC Plant agreed to pay Stuart.

Human cannon fodder

WHILE UP to 200 refugees may have drowned trying to reach Italy on the Saturday of last week, an Italian politician called for illegal immigrants to be shot at. Umberto Bossi, leader of the extremist Northern League, is vying to be the most bigoted member of Silvio Berlusconi's hard-right government.

Two days after the refugees' ship sank, Bossi said illegal immigrants should 'hear the blast of cannons' and 'after the second or third warning, boom'.

Does your pet glow in the dark?

SCIENTISTS have found another 'useful' application for genetic engineering - they have developed fluorescent fish so pet owners don't have to light their aquariums.

Scientists genetically modified the fish using a gene from jellyfish and marine coral so that they glow in the dark. The 'Red Night Pearls' glow in different patterns of red and green.

Not on board for devil's ship

NOTORIOUS landlord Nicholas van Hoogstraten is involved in a bid to house 1,000 asylum seekers on a boat moored off the Kent coast. Jailed last year for the manslaughter of business rival Mohammed Raja, Hoogstraten was one of the most feared landlords in Britain. He is known as the 'devil's' landlord.

He called his tenants 'scumbags', 'dog meat' and 'filth'. His string of convictions includes a four-year sentence for hiring a thug to lob a hand grenade into the home of an ex business colleague. The judge described him as 'an emissary of Beelzebub'.

Hoogstraten described himself as 'ruthless and probably violent'. He moaned to a court that his £500 million fortune wasn't enough. Now he plans to make money from his prison cell out of housing people fleeing from torture and persecution by charging the government £75 a week for each asylum seeker.

A £2.25 million bid has already been put in by Hoogstraten's legal advisors for the decommissioned military aircraft carrier HMS Vengeance.

National chamber, international low pay

COSTS FOR the new Scottish Parliament building are going through the roof - but it's not because of the workers' wages. Bosses of the contractors Mivan - who were awarded a contract to fit out the parliament's debating chamber - said they couldn't find enough Scottish workers and recruited 18 Romanians.

But they pay them below the £7.30 rate proposed by the Working Rule Agreement and deduct money from their wages for accommodation. Mivan chief executive Ivan McCabrey said, 'I may have to bring in Polish and Portuguese staff.'

Representatives from the construction workers' union Ucatt are due to visit the site this week with interpreters to inform the Romanian workers of their rights and offer to help them.

The Holyrood project was originally estimated to cost between £40 and £100 million but is two and a half years off schedule and is now expected to cost over £400 million. More delays were announced last week and it could be years before the actual final cost is known.

Figure it out

170 million - dollars is the amount George Bush's campaign team are planning to raise in contributions towards his re-election attempt in 2004. He already has $20 million in the bank.

Who says?

'Iraq is still a combat zone - that's why we're still taking some casualties.'
Lt General David Mckiernan commander of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq

'From striking to strikers, from mass demonstrations to goal celebrations, from industrial action to goalmouth action.' on how the Confederations Cup will halt the tide of unrest over pensions in France

'Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment.'
US government environmental protection agency draft report on global warming

'The prime minister must have concluded that it was honourable and desirable to back the US...therefore it was honourable for him to persuade us through various ruses and ways to get us there.'
Clare Short former international development secretary

'The complexity of the earth system makes it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future.'
Final US report on global warming

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 28 Jun 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1857
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