Doctors oppose clinical trial with an experimental drug on the people of Vanuatu

President of the Vanuatu Medical and Dental Association (VMDA) Dr Basil Leodoro. Picture: VANUATU DAILY POST

PORT VILA, 25 APRIL 2019 (VANUATU DAILY POST) – The doctors’ association in Vanuatu has taken a stand against any clinical trial in the country without the approval of a National Research or Ethics Committee.

The President of the Vanuatu Medical and Dental Association (VMDA), Dr Basil Leodoro, said the Association disapproves the idea of a company or individual coming to Vanuatu to carry out a trial with an experimental drug on the people of Vanuatu.

“Any clinical trial in the health sector must have a National Research and Ethics Committee formed to oversee and supervise such trials,” Dr Leodoro said.

He said in terms of a trial with a cannabis(marijuana)-derived drug on people with diabetes, the specialist clinical doctors of Vanuatu do not support it at all.

“There is no hard evidence today that shows that marijuana can treat diabetes,” Dr Leodoro explained.

“We the ni-Vanuatu specialist doctors do not agree for any clinical trial to take place in Vanuatu or to use our patients, when there is no committee in place to protect the life and health of the locals,” he said.

The Association believes that the Council of Ministers and Ministry of Health must appoint a National Research and Ethics Committee as soon as possible to oversee and safeguard health of the people of Vanuatu.

“Marijuana (cannabis) is not an approved treatment for diabetes.

“We have seen a lot of articles in the newspaper, which may mislead the public, especially the patients that are under our care.

“We want to make it clear to the public that marijuana has not yet been tested overseas.

“For this reason, the Vanuatu Government and the Ministry of Health must take it into consideration before allowing such clinical trials to be carried out in Vanuatu,” the President of the VMDA said.

The Association says there have already been concerns raised by Australia’s media group, ABC, that such clinical trial would not be approved in United States of America and Australia.

“When you take a closer look at it, such countries recognize the importance of being careful when any company wants to carry out clinical trial on their soil.

“They have laws and stringent process to check that the medicine or marijuana will not negatively affect the health of the people.

“We don’t have such process (for clinical trial) here in Vanuatu,” Dr Leodoro said.

VMDA has expressed its concern that if there is no Research and Ethics Committee, there will be no one to oversee the health and safety of the people that plan to take part in the clinical trial.

The Association says the Health Research and Ethics Committee must have in it a qualified clinical specialist of Vanuatu, a member of the State Law Office, a member of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, a community leader, a member from the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, a member from the Vanuatu Christian Council and a youth representative.

“There should be representation from different sectors as well.

“This Committee will make sure that any clinical trial in Vanuatu must be safe and it will help the men, women and children of Vanuatu,” the VMDA head stated.

VMDA says when such a Committee is appointed, there must be a transparent process to amend the relevant legislations that will affect the health services and the health of the people of Vanuatu.

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