Adverse side-effects always a risk when testing medicines

By Jarrod Booker

Few experimental drug trials are carried out on healthy people in New Zealand, but there is always a risk of severe side-effects, experts say.

Health authorities are watching closely to see the outcome of an investigation into the ill-fated drug trial in Britain that left six people, including a New Zealand man, seriously ill.

About 100 clinical drug trials on humans were approved by medical authorities in New Zealand last year, but only a small number of those were "phase-one trials", where the drugs are tested for the first time in human beings to gauge side-effects and the effect of different dosages.

"The first time ... clearly there is always that chance [of severe side- effects]. You can't eliminate it down to zero," said Health Research Council chief executive Bruce Scoggins.

"We will follow with great interest the investigations that go on in the United Kingdom to understand what happened here: was it an error or was it in fact truly something that came completely out of the blue and couldn't have been predicted in any way."

Researched Medicines Industry spokeswoman Debbie Wyber said the whole purpose of phase one trials was to discover if the drugs were safe for humans.

"Unfortunately there is always the potential for risk. Fortunately, I think this is the first time anything like this has happened."

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