A controversy appears to be emerging in Australia over payments made to parents who have enrolled children as young as six months old in H1N1 flu vaccine trials sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. In some instances, parents were enrolling three children at a time and receiving $900, according to The Herald Sun, which notes the payments may breach national ethical guidelines.
Parents of healthy children up to 10 years old are receiving $300 for each child to participate in the trial, which involves two needles, two blood tests and medical monitoring for each child. A spokeswoman for AusTrials, which runs the trials for Glaxo, confirmed to the paper that the payments were made and that, so far, 110 children participated. However, an anonymous critic complained to the Sun that parents were, effectively, exploiting their children for hundreds of dollars.
And so the paper canvassed several oversight bodies, which offered some stern advice. The National Health and Medical Research Council told the Sun that offfering inducements to encourage people to take part in a clinical trial is “ethically unacceptable.” The Royal Australasian College of Physicians says it is “inadvisable” for a child to participate in a trial unless there is some benefit or the parent is making a decision in their best interest. The decision must also be free of “inappropriate incentives.” And the Australian Medical Association ethics committee chair Peter Ford tells the paper that parents whose children took part in trials should not be motivated by money.