Three scientists who stunned medical experts by announcing the development of a drug that kills the AIDS virus have been ordered to stop testing on humans until their work has been evaluated.
The Medicines Control Council, a government panel that registers drugs, announced Friday that human testing would be stopped until it could review research on the drug, called Virodene P058. The council set a Feb. 5 deadline for its review.
On Wednesday, researchers from the University of Pretoria announced the development of Virodene when they went before South Africa's Cabinet to ask for $800,000 to continue their work. They said they had tested the drug on about a dozen people who were infected with HIV or had full-blown AIDS - and they claimed that the drug had reversed the effects of AIDS in at least one person. Scientists and AIDS groups reacted with skepticism. They denounced the three researchers for not following standard research practices, such as subjecting their work to peer review, and also for conducting human trials apparently without approval. Under standard procedures, the researchers should have had permission from either the medicines council or the university's ethics committee before experimenting on humans. Neither group has acknowledged giving its permission, although no one has directly accused the scientists of malpractice or unethical behavior. …