How can damage from medicines be rooted out, if Abe is 'not guilty'?

In a high-profile HIV trial, the Tokyo District Court on March 28 acquitted Abe Takeshi, former Teikyo University vice president, of charges of professional negligence resulting in the death of a man who received injections of HIV-contaminated unheated blood products.

The unexpected court judgment stunned the HIV lawsuit plaintiffs and their lawyers as well as family members of dead patients in the courtroom. Many said angrily, "I can't believe it."

About 200 people, including plaintiffs, lawyers, and their supporters held a meeting later in the day and decided to start anew the struggle to get the high court to overturn the district court ruling.

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On the district court ruling on the HIV lawsuit, Akahata's editorial of March 29 commented as follows:

Abe, who was regarded as one of the greatest experts on hemophilia treatment, served as the leader of the Health and Welfare Ministry AIDS Study Team which was formed in 1983. At the time, unheated blood products were regarded as dangerous due to the possibility that they are HIV-contaminated. But Abe failed to try to replace them by safer heated blood products. Consequently, more than 1,400 hemophiliacs who were treated by Abe were infected with AIDS virus and more than 500 of them died.

The judge said that Abe could have predicted the risk of AIDS virus infection in the use of unheated blood products. It is outrageous that the judge acquitted him of responsibility, which is incomparably greater than one which ordinary doctors may shoulder. The not-guilty judgment trampled underfoot the feeling of victims and their families who now regret having trusted Abe.

The major question is why the pharmaceutical companies, the government, and medical experts disregarded the 1983 report which warned of the danger of unheated blood products.

The prosecutors in the court pointed out that a cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies, the Health and Welfare Ministry, and medical experts was a cause of policies and actions which went wrong. Victims' family members were right when they criticized the court ruling for completely disregarding the cozy relationship between pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors.

A former pharmaceutical firm president who was sentenced to imprisonment for providing HIV-contaminated unheated blood products is a former H&W Ministry Pharmaceutical Affairs Bureau director. The company also gave many H&W ministry retirees executive posts.

The prosecutors also pointed out that the reason why then H&W Ministry Biologics and Antibiotics division head didn't take steps to order the companies to stop the sale of dangerous blood products and withdraw them was that he was afraid that it would do damage to the companies.

The cozy relationship between the pharmaceutical industry, the government, and medical experts must be rooted out, and they must be held responsible. Otherwise, damage from medication would never end. All facts about how and why corporate benefits took precedence over human lives must be established. (end)