Behind a veil of corporate media PR, the Gates Foundation has served as a vehicle for Western capital while exploiting the Global South as a human laboratory. The coronavirus pandemic is likely to intensify this disturbing agenda.
by Jeremy Loffredo and Michele Greenstein
Part 9 - Guinea pigs in the Global South
Bill Gates’ channels of influence have also been instrumental in testing drugs on people in poor countries.
Before a drug can be sold to the public, the FDA and similar agencies in Europe mandate that a company test the drug on human subjects. The third and final phase of these tests before the drug can go to market are phase III clinical trials, during which companies are required to give the drug to large numbers of people in controlled studies.
It is estimated that about 90 percent of drug development costs are incurred in phase III trials. But these companies can avoid costs by conducting the trials in so-called developing nations.
This cost-cutting strategy has been outlined by the U.S. consulting firm McKinsey, which suggested including “emerging markets” in drug trials to reduce “the loss of significant revenues.”
So it comes as no surprise that the Gates Foundation, a McKinsey client, outwardly stated its “goal” was to help drug companies side-step safety trials and accelerate the drug approval process for pharmaceutical companies. Or, as they put it, to “refine potential interventions such as vaccine candidates before they enter costly and time consuming late-stage clinical trials.”
While conducting clinical trials on the poor is financially advantageous, it can also be dangerous. Citing numerous examples of the danger, a South African newspaper once declared, “We are the guinea pigs for the drug makers.”
From 2009 to 2011, phase III clinical trials of the first malaria vaccine – funded by the Gates Foundation and manufactured by GSK – took place in seven African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Gabon, and Tanzania).
In 2011, GSK’s own data showed female children were dying (from any cause) at more than twice the rate of those in the control group. Children who received the vaccine also had a risk of meningitis that was 10 times higher than those who didn’t.
Yet the WHO still coordinates the administration of the drug to more than 700,000 children in Ghana, Kenya, and Malawi, as part of an unofficial clinical trial it calls a “pilot implementation.” (It was the Gates-aligned SAGE that recommended the pilot implementation.)
Since this product is administered to children as part of the countries’ vaccination schedule, the WHO claims consent is implied. But parents aren’t always given information regarding safety risks, again rendering them unable to give informed consent for their children. As the associate editor of the British Medical Journal put it, “an implied consent process means that recipients of the malaria vaccine are not being informed that they are in a study.”
The Gates Foundation also funded clinical trials of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines made by GSK and Merck. These drugs were given to 23,000 young girls in remote Indian provinces as part of an initiative by the Gates-backed Program for Appropriate Health and Technology (PATH).
Again, study participants were robbed of the ability to give informed consent, as the “pros and cons of vaccination [were not] properly communicated to the parents/guardians.”
According to Professor Linsey McGoey from the University of Essex, “Most of the vaccines were given to girls at ashram pathshalas (boarding schools for tribal children), side-stepping the need to seek parental consent for the shots.”
PATH also failed to implement a system for recording major adverse reactions to the vaccines, which is legally mandated for large-scale clinical trials. The Indian Committee on Health and Family Welfare brought PATH to court for this alleged transgression, accusing it of human rights violations and of child abuse. In 2013, the court’s two judge panel observed that while foreign companies “are treating India as a heaven for clinical trials, and it is proving hell for India.”
India’s parliamentary committee charged that the “sole aim” of the Gates-funded project was to promote “commercial interests of the HPV vaccine manufacturers, who would have reaped windfall profits if PATH had been successful in getting the HPV vaccine included in the universal immunization program of the Country.”
The editor emeritus of the National Medical Journal of India concurred with the panel’s report, writing that this was an “obvious case where Indians were being used as guinea pigs.”