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Govt Takes Futile Stance On Diabetes Treatment

"The transferral to the Cook Islands of xeno transplantation clinical trials associated with diabetes treatment reveals the futility of this Government's reluctance to embrace new biological technologies," says ACT Health Spokesman Ken Shirley.

"Presently we have a moratorium on field trials involving genetic modification and the Government introduced an amendment to legislation late last year, which has the effect of banning xeno transplantation even though this does not involve genetic modification.

"Pig tissue has been used in the treatment of diabetes since the 1920s with many thousands of people benefiting from these treatments. Not one case of retrovirus transfer has been identified. The select committee hearing evidence on the xeno transplantation issue was advised that the Ministry of Health expert panel - which recommended against the Diatranz application - did not call upon the experts in virology, who were most experienced in the field and could have assuaged their fears and doubts.

"A group of young New Zealanders received xeno transplantation of insulin-producing pig pancreatic cells in the early 1990's. This group who appeared before the select committee attested to the successful outcomes of the trials. They were astounded that the Ministry of Health, while opposing the continuation of these field trials, has never followed up on their treatment by testing blood or tissue for any adverse affects and yet is prepared to condemn the continuation of the trials.

"This pioneering treatment is now proceeding in Mexico and elsewhere including it seems the Cook Islands. People will be free to travel to these locations to receive the treatment

and persons with the xeno transplanted tissue will be free to enter this country without screening.

"Therefore, while all the evidence suggests there is extremely low probability of retrovirus transfer from pigs to humans using this technology, we nevertheless will be exposed to any risk there is - while at the same time rejecting the benefits of this technology breakthrough. The work undertaken so far in New Zealand suggests that a multi billion-dollar industry could be developed from the work of these clinical trials.

"Because of the inept handling of this issue by government New Zealand will now turn its back on this opportunity and thousands of New Zealand diabetes sufferers will be denied this life changing treatment," concluded Mr Shirley.


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