Australia to Require Human-Embryo Drug Labeling

To Inform Consumers Who Have Ethical Concerns

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HOBART, Australia, SEPT. 24, 2003 ( Australian consumers will be the first in the world to know when human embryos, human embryonic stem cells, or materials derived from embryos or stem cells are used in the manufacture or testing of pharmaceuticals.

The new guidelines are due to the work of Brian Harradine, an Independent senator from Tasmania, who drafted what are called the Therapeutic Goods Regulations.

Almost a year ago, Harradine tried to amend the Research Involving Human Embryos Act, which endorses the destruction of human embryos for research. When blocked, he settled on making an amendment to the Therapeutic Goods Act.

«These regulations are a small consolation for the tragic passage last year of legislation which allows the destruction of human embryos for research,» Harradine said in a recent statement.

«One of the principal uses of human embryos and human embryonic stem cells is expected to be the testing and manufacture of drugs,» explained Harradine, a Catholic.

«I was very concerned that consumers with an ethical objection to the destruction of human embryos would be forced to be morally complicit in the use of these drugs, simply because information was hidden from them,» he said.

Because of the amendment, pharmaceutical companies must provide notification of human embryo use in the product information found in pamphlets for medical professionals and in consumer medicine information — pamphlets for consumers that are available for all registered drugs in Australia. The information will be available for all drugs registered after July 1, 2004.

«The regulations are not perfect,» Harradine said in his statement, «but this is a great improvement on the current situation.»

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