Foster children in tests of drugs need protection

The government's failure to make sure its own rules were followed to protect hundreds of &to=http:// ' target=_blank>foster children in tests of HIV/AIDS drugs is unconscionable.

About 5 percent to 10 percent of 13,878 kids enrolled in pediatric AIDS research funded by the National Institutes of Health were in foster care in seven states - Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Texas. In most cases, researchers ignored federal guidelines that required getting an advocate for each child before giving them &to=http:// ' target=_blank>experimental drugs, according to The Associated Press. The researchers circumvented the requirement by claiming the tests posed minimal risk to the children because the drugs already had been tried in adults, reports the Denver Post.

Several studies that enlisted foster children reported that patients suffered side effects such as rashes, vomiting and sharp drops in infection-fighting blood cells, and one reported a "disturbing" higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug, records show. The government provided special protections for child wards in 1983. They required researchers and their oversight boards to appoint independent advocates for any foster child enrolled in a narrow class of studies that involved greater than minimal risk and lacked the promise of direct benefit.

Some foster agencies, including those in Illinois and New York, required researchers to sign a document agreeing to provide the protection regardless of risks and benefits.

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