Role of US drug firms to be investigated

THE role of US drug firms in the infection of hundreds of Irish haemophiliacs is set to be investigated, it emerged last night.

Health Minister Micheál Martin is determined to press ahead with an inquiry and is expected to announce further details before the end of the year, after seeking further legal advice.

Drug firms based in the US exported infected blood products over a 20-year period resulting in the death of 74 haemophiliacs.

In a Dáil debate over the Lindsay Tribunal's report into the infection scandal yesterday, deputies said the chairwoman's failure to investigate US firms was "incredible", "regrettable" and "appalling".

Labour's health spokeswoman Liz McManus, said: "I do not believe that she was restricted by the terms of reference. She clearly did not wish to embark on that part of the project as her refusal to accept the minister's suggestion indicates."

Minister Martin, however, thanked Justice Lindsay for the report and said his officials had referred it to the Director for Public Prosecutions last week.

He also said the personal testimonies of victims who gave evidence to the tribunal would be published as a memorial to their bravery and courage.

More than 260 haemophiliacs in the State were infected with HIV and/or hepatitis C between the mid-1970s and 1990. Newly-appointed administrator of the Irish Haemophilia Society Margaret Dunne said the suffering of victims and relatives would continue until action was taken to make those responsible accountable for their actions.

Since the Lindsay Tribunal report was published last September, Ms Dunne said she has been receiving calls on a daily basis from members who cannot understand why the report failed to bring the kind of closure they so desperately wanted.

She said one bit of good to come out of the report was the recommendation that a national co-ordination committee be established on a statutory basis to deal with the treatment and care of persons with haemophilia.

The committee which will involve the IHS and the Department of Health will ensure no treatment decision is made without everybody being informed.

It will also have the power to call on international expertise.

While the shape of the minister's planned inquiry is unclear, he is to have further consultations with legal experts, support groups and the Attorney General before detailing the shape of the inquiry.

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