By JOHN SOLOMON, Associated Press Writer 5 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Government-funded researchers tested
AIDS drugs on hundreds of foster children over the past two decades, often without providing them a basic protection afforded in federal law and required by some states, an Associated Press review has found.
The research funded by the National Institutes of Health spanned the country. It was most widespread in the 1990s as foster care agencies sought treatments for their
HIV-infected children that weren't yet available in the marketplace.
The practice ensured that foster children — mostly poor or minority — received care from world-class researchers at government expense, slowing their rate of death and extending their lives. But it also exposed a vulnerable population to the risks of medical research and drugs that were known to have serious side effects in adults and for which the safety for children was unknown.
In one study, researchers reported a "disturbing" higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug. That study was unable to determine a safe and effective dosage.
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 required the protection regardless of risks and benefits.
Advocates must be independent of the foster care and research agencies, have some understanding of medical issues and "act in the best interests of the child" for the entirety of the research, the law states.