March 10

BBC 2: Guinea Pig Kids: Vulnerable NYC foster children forced to test AIDS drugs

Tue, 30 Nov 2004

Tonight the BBC- 2 is airing an investigative report about a series of drug experiments that were conducted on infants and children who were under the guardianship of the New York City Agency for Children’s Services (ACS), and living at Incarnation Children’s Center, a foster care facility under contract with ACS.

The test subjects were children diagnosed with HIV infection – in some cases infants who were merely “presumed” to be HIV-infected were subjected to Phase I and Phase II clinical trials.

Phase I and Phase II experiments involve the greatest level of risk and discomfort. These trials test the safety and toxicity of the drugs as well as maximum dose tolerated.

The experiments were all supported by US government agencies of the National Institutes of Health – some in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies including: GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Genentech, Merck, Biocine, Lederle-Praxis Biuologicals, MicroGeneSys.

A letter of complaint (March 10, 2004) by The Alliance for Human Research Protection leading to two federal investigations by the FDA and the Office of Human Research Protection. See:

See also, New York Post:

Read the assessment by the Institute of Science and Society about the experimental drugs tested on these children.

UPDATE Under pressure from powerful US stakeholders in the business of clinical trials, BBC pulled the documentary, stating, “Editorial Complaints Unit has identified serious failings with this programme and ruled that some of the online material based on it was misleading.”

Following the report by the Vera Institute of Justice (2009), which confirmed numerous ethical concerns and documented 80 child deaths, BBC pulled the previously posted complaints without comment. Transcript posted here.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav


Guinea Pig Kids

Vulnerable children in some of New York’s poorest districts are being forced to take part in HIV drug trials.

During a nine month investigation, the BBC has uncovered the disturbing truth about the way authorities in New York City are conducting the fight against Aids.

HIV positive children – some only a few months old – are enrolled in toxic experiments without the consent of guardians or relatives.

In some cases where parents have refused to give children their medication, they have been placed in care.

The city’s Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) does not even require a court order to place HIV kids with foster parents or in children’s homes, where they can continue to give them experimental drugs.

Tuesday, 30th November, 2004
1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK)

Reporter Jamie Doran talks to parents and guardians who fear for the lives of their loved ones, and to a child who spent years on a drugs programme that made him and his friends ill.

Young lives

In 2002, the Incarnation Children’s Center – a children’s home in Harlem – was at the hub of controversy over secretive drugs trials.

Jamie speaks to a boy who spent most of his life at Incarnation. Medical records, obtained by the This World team, prove the boy had been enrolled in these trials.

“I did not want to take my medication,” said the boy, “but if you want to get out of there, you have to do what they say.”

He also conveys a horrifying account of what happened to the children at Incarnation who refused to obey the rules. “My friend Daniel didn’t like to take his medicine and he got a tube in his stomach,” he said.


Dr David Rasnick from the University of Berkeley who has studied the effects of HIV drugs on patients – particularly children – says these drugs are “lethal”. “The young are not completely developed yet,” he says. “The immune system isn’t completely mature until a person’s in their teens.”

So why are these children targetted? Is it simply because they cannot defend themselves?

At the beginning of this investigation, the ACS said that no child was selected for trials without a long process of decision making, but declined to comment further.

For months, the BBC tried to get information from the people responsible for the trials, but none would comment.

The companies that supply drugs for the trials are among the world’s largest, including Britain’s own Glaxo SmithKline (GSK). GSK responded to BBC programme makers, saying that all trials follow stringent standards and are compliant with local laws and regulations.

Under federal rules, consent for children to take part in drug trials has to be given by their parents. But what if that child is in the care of New York City authorities, which volunteered it for trials in the first place?

Guinea Pig Kids will be broadcast on Tuesday, 30th November, 2004, at 1930 GMT on BBC Two (UK).

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/29 14:22:39 GMT


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