Babies in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were used for formula trial

A previously unknown trial of lactose and baby formula was carried out using infants in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home by Glaxo Laboratories in the mid-1970s.

Babies in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home were used for formula trial

By Conall Ó Fátharta

A previously unknown trial of lactose and baby formula was carried out using infants in Bessborough Mother and Baby Home by Glaxo Laboratories in the mid-1970s.

This is now the sixth confirmed clinical trial using children in care in Ireland by a predecessor company of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). It has previously stated that only four trials — of various vaccines — were carried out in Ireland in the 1960s and ’70s. These trials were carried out by the Wellcome Foundation.

However, in 2014, the Irish Examiner revealed a fifth trial was carried out — this time by Glaxo Laboratories — involving more than 30 children in the 1960s.

It has now emerged that this same company was also testing lactose and powdered milk formulas on children in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Cork in 1974.

The trial only came to light after the material was found in the file of Breda Bonass, who had sought her records from Tusla under Freedom of Information.

GSK said it had “been unable to locate any records relating to a 1974 study”.

“A search did find very limited documentation relating to a trial from 1967 — the assumption, therefore, would be that the 1974 study’s purpose was to compare current milk powder with a newer formulation,” said a GSK statement. “The records contain no names or information about the children involved.”

GSK said it did not know why Ireland was chosen as a location for the trial but that the 1967 trial was carried out in the UK, Kenya, Argentina, Malaysia, “and probably more”.

In a statement, the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus said it had “no information on any such trials”.

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