The Camp Vamp: Katrina Fox

Commentary on GLBTIQ issues, social justice and some of life's quirks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Drug warning

Last week Roche announced that it has recalled its HIV drug, Viracept, due to the fact it may be contaminated. According to information on the drug manufacturer’s website, an active substance in the drug may contain an impurity called methane sulfonic acid ethyl ester. Last week ACON President Adrian Lovney issued a statement urging anyone taking the drug to visit their GP (SX 333).

All well and good, but here comes the bit that makes a complete and utter nonsense of so-called ‘drug testing’. “Roche has advised ACON that the effects of the contaminant in humans has not been studied,” Lovney said. “However, studies in animals show that the class of chemical called alcylmesilates – which includes methane sulfonic acid – may have the potential to be carcinogenic if administered in very large quantities.”

Not studied in humans. I repeat, NOT studied in humans. Instead, non-humans with totally different body systems to us (including chimps, which at a molecular level are very different) are subjected to cruel and inhumane torture to conclude that if we imprison them in cages and inject them with large doses of poisonous substances, they’ll probably get cancer. Wow, really? Never would have guessed. Extrapolating such ‘information’ to humans is not only scientifically inaccurate, it’s downright dangerous.

It’s why the thalidomide disaster happened – women gave birth to deformed babies, which wasn’t predicted in animal tests. It’s why drugs like Vioxx are taken off the market, after they’ve been deemed ‘safe’ due to ‘animal experiments’. On the flipside, if lemon juice is administered to a rat, it will kill it. Should we all rush to stop consuming lemon juice? And the release of penicillin was delayed when its discoverer, Alexander Fleming, put it to one side because it didn’t work in rabbits. Only when Fleming had a sick human patient and nothing else to try did he administer penicillin – with excellent results. (See for more info and examples.)

To put things into perspective, despite the supposed stringency of animal tests on drugs deemed safe for human consumption and released onto the market, two million Americans become seriously ill and approximately 100,000 people die every year because of reactions to medicines they were prescribed. This figure exceeds the number of deaths from all illegal drugs combined, at an annual cost to the public of more than US$136 billion in healthcare expenses.

Don’t be fooled by drug companies’ reassurances about the safety of their products – remember, as long as they rely on outdated, pseudo-science like animal experiments, consumers are ultimately the first human ‘guinea pigs’. I’m not against prescription drugs per se – of course some of them help people considerably and save lives, including HIV drugs – but this is despite, not because of, horrendous, painful experiments on animals. Roche’s understanding of how its contaminated products might affect humans is allegedly “evolving”. Maybe they, along with other drug manufacturers, can evolve to the point where they embrace 21st century technology that enables testing on human cells. Just a thought…


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