Poor Pregnant Women with Herpes Don't Get Meds, and Someone Notices

| Wed Dec. 6, 2006 8:03 AM EST

GlaxoSmithKline, in testing their herpes med, Valtrex, may have put women in harm's way. This according to Public Citizen, which, in the Dec 1 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology accuses the pharma giant of withholding important medication from poor and minority women.

In a recent clinical trial 168 pregnant women were given a placebo rather than an alternative herpes drug, while the other 170 were given medication. This, despite the fact that research has shown that the drug and its generic, acyclovir, reduces risks associated with herpes and pregnancy (the virus can be fatal for infants who contract the disease at birth).

The study, which took place earlier this year and was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, enrolled more than 300 black and Hispanic pregnant women at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The hospital serves a largely indigent population. Public Citizen's Dr. Peter Lurie is outraged:

"What I don't understand is how you can do a research study and conclude that a drug is effective and then stare a bunch of pregnant women in the face and withhold the very drug you've just recommended."

A doctor involved in the study, Dr. George Wendel, would not comment specifically on allegations that poor women were taken advantage of, instead saying that the study was designed and conducted "according to good research practices" and was approved by the hospital's ethics review board.