Australian Immigration denies issuing banned drug

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Protesters at the gates of Baxter recently, another of Australia's immigration detention centers.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA –The Australian Department of Immigration (DIMIA) today denied issuing a banned drug to immigration detainees, either in Australia or on Nauru. But the Asylum Seeker Resource Center (ASRC) said in a press release yesterday that a woman detained here was administered the drug, until advocates called the Minister's office recently to have it stopped.

"It took a phone call to the Minister's office to stop the administration of [Vioxx]," says Pamela Curr of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) "Inadequate care for asylum seekers is so normalised in the detention centres that the doctors contracted by the detention system continued to administer a banned drug."

Dr Graham, a US whistleblower influential in getting the drug banned, has described that the painkiller and anti-arthritic Vioxx, banned on September 30, caused up to 160,000 heart attacks and strokes, and 27,785 deaths from heart ailments from 1999 to 2003. [1]

DIMIA this afternoon repeated its claims published in this morning's Age, that the drug has not been prescribed in its detention system since sometime before the ban was even made, and "no detainees at Nauru were taking the medication".

According to DIMIA, the drug was withdrawn from use at Nauru last September, and doctors at other detention centers around Australia were directed on October 1 to stop prescribing Vioxx. All stockpiles of the Vioxx had been destroyed when it was withdrawn.

The ASRC says the International Organisation of Migration (IOM), who "run the camps under orders and with funding from DIMIA", made the same claim in January 2005. Refugee advocates had emailed the IOM, believing at the time that Vioxx was still being prescribed.

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