Tuesday, June 17, 2008

VA testing drugs on war veterans

Experiments raise ethical questions
Audrey Hudson (Contact)
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The government is testing drugs with severe side effects like psychosis and suicidal behavior on hundreds of military veterans, using small cash payments to attract patients into medical experiments that often target distressed soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Washington Times/ABC News investigation has found.

In one such experiment involving the controversial anti-smoking drug Chantix, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took three months to alert its patients about severe mental side effects. The warning did not arrive until after one of the veterans taking the drug had suffered a psychotic episode that ended in a near lethal confrontation with police.

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES Veteran James Elliott arrives at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington for his scheduled substance-abuse class in April. Mr. Elliott, a chain smoker, served 15 months in Iraq as an Army sharpshooter and suffers post-traumatic stress disorder.

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES Iraq war veteran James Elliott opted for a government clinical trial for a smoking-cessation drug for $30 a month, starting in November. Two weeks later, the FDA informed the VA of serious side effects.

ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES STILL SMOKING: Iraq war veteran James Elliott smokes on his porch in Silver Spring as he talks about his experiences in war and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr. Elliott suffered a psychotic episode while taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix.

James Elliott, a decorated Army sharpshooter who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving 15 months in Iraq, was confused and psychotic when he was Tasered by police in February as he reached for a concealed handgun when officers responded to a 911 call at his Maryland home.
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