The Australian Defence Human Research Ethics Committee (ADHREC) minutes reported by The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald this morning provide further damning evidence of the extensive harm caused to Australian soldiers by the unethical drug trials conducted by the Army Malaria Institute (AMI) in Timor Leste in 2000-2002, and the ADF’s 15-year long attempted cover-up. During my recent testimony to the Senate inquiry I called for a judicial inquiry into the conduct of the AMI, ADHREC and other parties. This evidence reinforces the need for an urgent judicial inquiry into what appears to be extensive criminal misconduct on the part of numerous senior ADF officials over many years. Such an inquiry should include a full audit of the records of every subject involved in the trials and their subsequent medical histories. The AMI and its contemptuous treatment of Australian soldiers as human guinea pigs is a dark stain on the hard-earned reputation of the Australian Army. Those soldiers, their families and the public now deserve to be told the truth, and the perpetrators of these crimes must now be held fully accountable before the law.
ADHREC Minutes from 2001-2005
These are extracts from the heavily redacted ADHREC minutes from 2001-2005 in relation to the 2000-2002 AMI clinical trials of mefloquine and tafenoquine conducted in Timor Leste. The minutes were obtained by Paul Cleary from The Australian via a freedom of information request and are now publicly available. The committee repeatedly raised its concerns about the conduct of the trials, the serious neuropsychiatric side effects of mefloquine and tafenoquine, and called for AMI to convey information openly and honestly to those involved in order to avoid the perception of a cover-up. Unfortunately this so-called “scrutiny” was not pursued in any substantial way.
On 26 February 2001 ADHREC stated that “it became apparent that mefloquine had potentially serious side effects of which [it] had been previously unaware. In particular, CNS side effects of depression and psychosis caused considerable concern to the Committee, especially were they to occur in deployed troops.”
On 25 February 2002 ADHREC stated that “whilst the information [in one of the trial reports] was reassuring, it would be preferable to have all information conveyed openly and honestly to every member involved in current and previous Tafenoquine trials. This will markedly reduce the risk of a perceived cover up.”
On 12 August 2002 ADHREC stated that “The apparent high incidence of adverse events was of concern to the Committee. … the decision was made that AMI would only report on adverse events that were possibly drug related.”
On 25 November 2002 ADHREC stated that “There was still a deal of unease among the members with regard to this [research] Protocol. … there were other problems that the Committee felt needed to be addressed. These included … a concern that the protocol presented was different to the research being proposed …”
On 5 July 2004 ADHREC stated that “members requested that all researchers advise ADHREC of all serious adverse event reports.”
On 28 February 2005 ADHREC stated that “The [research protocol] modification details had not been clarified or presented from the last meeting.”