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Govt ban sends NZ scientists and patients overseas

Dr Paul Hutchison
National Associate Science and Health Spokesperson

28 January 2002

Govt ban sends NZ scientists and patients overseas

The Government was being shortsighted and regressive in banning a technique to cure diabetes, National's Associate Health and Science Spokesperson Dr Paul Hutchison said today.

"This issue has been tacked on to a Bill related to Genetic Engineering because the Government has extended the 'precautionary principle' to an area of science that is not connected with genetic engineering. The technique for curing diabetes has nothing to do with GE and should be considered through the Medicines Act.

"The Government has avoided scrutiny by rushing this Bill through - on the last day of Parliament 2001 - and allowing little time for public consultation. The Bill, among other things, bans a technique to cure diabetes (Xenotransplantation involves the use of animal cells to produce insulin for humans suffering diabetes).

"For a Government professing to be catching the knowledge wave, its introduction of this legislation is cynical. It is unfortunate that this research is stopped here but being done overseas by New Zealand companies - the resource is going offshore and leaves New Zealand diabetics without an opportunity to be treated.

Six patients were treated with coated pig cells in New Zealand in the late 90's. There have been promising improvements in some individuals and no side affects recorded. "I know of one New Zealand diabetic who is sacrificing his savings with the hope of seeking treatment offshore.

"Some of the greatest contributions to science and medicine have occurred when courageous individuals have taken risks. The results, in the field of immunization, have literally been tens of millions of lives saved. Dr Hutchison said he would ask Health Minister Annette King to consider allowing trials to continue in cases where patients have given fully informed consent as is accepted by the FDA in the United States.

"The Government should extend the time for submission or simply remove this part from the Bill altogether," he said.

Ends

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