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Medics charged with illegal tests on babies in S. Russia

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VOLGOGRAD, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Prosecutors have charged three medical staff at a private clinic in southern Russia with illegally testing Belgian-made vaccines on children between one and two years of age.

The clinic in the city of Volgograd tested the Varilrix vaccine against chickenpox, and a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, Priorix-Tetra, on a total of 112 children under a 2005 contract with the Belgian giant GlaxoSmithKline.

"Preliminary investigations showed that the doctors, seeking material benefits, conducted clinical tests of the vaccines with no regard for the children's lives and health," prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the parents had been unaware of the trials and raised questions when their children fell ill after receiving the vaccines, which work by causing the body to produce its own immunity against the disease.

The pediatricians failed to inform parents of the trials and received 1.5 million rubles ($57,670) and 700,000 rubles ($26,900) from GlaxoSmithKline, prosecutors said.

"The parents believed these were routine vaccinations, they were not told that new vaccines were being tested on their children," prosecutors said.

A probe against the Volgograd clinic was launched following an incident where a baby-girl was diagnosed for neurological disorders after receiving one of the vaccines.

"Medical examination revealed the girl's health problems occurred as a result of the vaccination," prosecutors said.

The clinical trials were halted in February 2007, following a court ruling, which was appealed against by the hospital and GlaxoSmithKline. Both said the trials were legitimate and there was no convincing evidence supporting claims that the vaccines were harmful to health.

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