Lethal Medicine: A French Souvenir

In the 1980s, the French sold Iran tainted blood products that resulted in 200 Hemophiliac patients contracting HIV. It took many of these patients years before they first realized about their disease. This gravely aggravated the situation and caused further spread of the virus. Spouses got infected, children were born with AIDS, and parents were left distraught and distressed. Lack of awareness and stigmatization of AIDS’ earlier years drove these families into isolation. It is estimated that the lives of nearly 3000 people were affected by the contaminated Factor eight products which were prepared in France. It is documented that Laurent Fabius, the man who presides over the France Foreign Ministry since 2012, is the main culprit in the case of exporting tainted blood products to Iran as well as nine other countries. Many of the first victims including the first ever child who contracted HIV in Iran are now passed away. But the families are still grieving and fighting for justice. The French pharmaceutical giant of Sanofi Aventis has so far failed to provide Iranian victims with compensation.

This way … No, go straight. It’s roughly in front of us on the right-hand side. Eighty eight … Twelve … One hundred and nine … This is one hundred and nine … Yes, we should have gone that way. Which way? That one. All right. We go now. We should have gone that way. Yes, it's over there.

I’m Fatemeh Tayyebi, Masoud Naeemi’s mother. He was the first child in Iran infected with HIV when he was seven.

I married in . My first child was a girl. After five years, I gave birth to a boy. We named him Masoud. After nine months, we realized that he was a hemophiliac with factor VIII deficiency.

After six years, we were going to have him circumcised. So he had to receive a great deal of factor VIII. After a while, he got sick. He had been infected with HIV but we were not told for a few months. He underwent medical treatment. Then we were told. It was about six months since we were informed. It was not a long time. But we had a tough time even during that short period. We really had a tough time of it. Words fail me.

My name’s Abdorrasoul Ghanbari. I’m years old. I was born in Semirom. In our family, two were hemophiliacs; my brother, Mansour, and I.

I’m Masoud Ghanbari, Mansour Ghanbari’s son. When my father died I was four. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I didn’t know where my father was when I couldn’t find him at home. I didn’t know what death meant at the time. As far as I can remember, my father used to go to the hospital. He had to use serums all the time. His health was poor. As I grew up, I asked about it. They said that it was not a typical disease and my father died from a rare disease. From when I was four to now that I’m twenty-five I have visit my father only here. I have always talked to him only here. I have never felt having a father …

My son, Masoud, departed this life. He really died unfairly. I’m more concerned about other children not to suffer the same fate.

It was years after Masoud’s death. In other words, it was ten years ago. When my daughter married, she gave birth to a boy. We named him Masoud. I felt as if I found my missing son. I was very happy because of Masoud, unaware that he was also a hemophiliac with factor VIII deficiency. My sufferings multiplied. Now I’m worried all the time. I feel sad all the time. And I’m nervous all the time.

This is at home. He watched Bruce Lee and liked to imitate him. I wonder what kind of outlook they’ve got. They always expect from others. They have never asked themselves why they devastated other people’s lives.

Why? What wrong did I do? I was a young man on top of the world. But they dragged me down to the cemetery in the full prime of youth. I’m still in the cemetery. I’m still thinking about him. They destroyed my life completely. What wrong did I do?! What wrong did I do?!

Just as we realized that Masoud got infected … Because we would never use other medicines except the French ones … We just used the French factor … Then, as they gave us the test results and told us about the symptoms of the disease, we realized that he had got infected by the French medicines. We never used Iranian medicines. It was not possible to get the medicines from other countries. We only had access to the French factor.

It was the year or so that they did tests on us without even telling us. It was in that they asked our whole family to have a test. My sister, brother and even sister-in-law went for a test. Then we began to hear that the medicines from the Mérieux Institute were tainted. I was working in the Iranian Blood Transfusion Organization since . Reading magazines and papers there, I realized that the medicines imported from France were tainted with HIV.

In , my brother’s health deteriorated. His immune system had weakened. He was wasting away. His gastrointestinal tract was getting infected. When we asked Dr. Keyhani, the head of the clinic, about his illness he said that we didn’t need to worry. I told the doctor that my brother was infected with HIV. They concealed the truth from us. As his health deteriorated in , they admitted that he was infected with HIV. They told him not to father anymore. His health really worsened. He had a hard time then. He was hospitalized and he couldn’t go away. Eventually, he died from the disease in April .

But they told me that I was not infected with the virus. I married in unaware of the truth. In , my first child was born. I was curious to know whether I was really infected or not. So I went for a test in the Blood Transfusion Organization. Then, I was informed by phone that I was infected too.

I was weeping for three days. I was very sad. I couldn’t stay calm, to be honest. There was some Dr. Rezvan. She came up to me to calm me down. I told her, “Doctor, you knew I was infected. If you just informed me, I would never marry.”

Look! The tragedy that has rocked the patients is in fact the French Mérieux Institute affair. The Americans were the first to realize that unheated blood products can cause viral infections, as they did in our country later. They informed the French, telling them that they were prepared to sell the technology. Instead of throwing the tainted medicines away, the French exported them – even their own patients consumed them and a great number of French hemophiliacs were infected with HIV. But the crime committed is unforgivable. We believe that the French people must know about the greed and avarice of a French company that betrayed the trust of others to export its tainted medicines knowingly to ten countries in the world.

The HIV version hemophiliacs with factor VIII deficiency were infected with is different from the HIV version which is found only in Iran. Examining HIV infection cases caused through ways other than using French blood products, it was clear that the HIV version Iranian hemophiliacs were infected with is not epidemic in Iran. It means that it is different from Iranian version of the virus.

We believe that this is a stain on the history of French pharmaceutical industry. Located in France, the cradle of law, the French company is expected to do its best to make up for the misdeed.

The Sanofi-Aventis company has paid compensation for infecting Iraqi patients with HIV by the Mérieux Institute. But why doesn’t it pay the Iranian victims compensation? We even suggested that instead of paying our patients compensation the Sanofi-Aventis company make up for it by giving medicines in several phases.

My child has to have injections everyday. The other day, he sobbed, “Mom, how long shall I have injections?” I sat down weeping with him. He said, “Mom, till when? … till when? … till when?”.

Do those in the Sanofi-Aventis company know that twenty wives of the hemophiliacs were infected with HIV transmitted from their husbands? Do they know the medicines infected embryos with HIV and now they’re all six feet under? Do they know?

Hemophiliacs like me are in dire need of medicines. Now it’s more than years since the event. But there are many problems to get medicines due to sanctions.

Medicine is not subjected to the sanctions. The US Ministry of Foreign Affairs has pointed it out on its website and companies have a print of it to import medicine. So medicine is not subjected to the sanctions. But sanction on the banking sector indirectly means sanction on medicine. We are not given any leeway to buy medicine. Before the sanction, my patients’ access to medicine was 1.6. That’s while after the sanctions, it has reduced by one third. It’s a silent tragedy. The result will be a lot of disabled children suffering from hemophilia.

Hello. Hello. Yes, I can remember. It was when I heard Mr. Marandi come to the clinic.

I don’t know to what the children fell victim. Has it to do with politics or business? I don’t know at all. But it’s so inhumane to kill such children. I’ve come here for years, of which one year I came every day. I was here every day. I couldn’t help it. All the workers and gravediggers knew me. Sometimes, I lay inside the graves. I didn’t like to go home. My child withered away before my eyes but I couldn’t help him.

If Iran had exported such medicines to their country killing their children how would have they treated us? How would they have treated Iran?

The production group would welcome your opinions about this documentary.

All left me alone, from our neighbors and friends to our relatives.

When he turned six he was not admitted to school.

All the patients we visited were either sad or angry. Ms. Naeemi! If I’m not mistaken, years or so have passed since Masoud’s death. The mother’s grief is so fresh that as soon as she hears the name Masoud her eyes fill with tears.

What were imported into Iran were medicines. To be exact, they were blood products and these medicines were the source of the infection. The headlines the media used to write and we always objected to them … the media liked to say “tainted blood” but it was not tainted blood but medicines.

It must be added that we are going to find an attorney to bring the French company to trial inside the country.

To be exact, Masoud was seven years old.

I’m Damoun Shabani and I have a Master’s degree in international law. I accepted the case for both personal and professional reasons. Personally, when I saw the sorrows of Mrs. Tayyebi, Masoud Naeemi’s mother - who was the victim of this tragedy - and of Mr. Siravand who is still suffering I felt that it was my duty as a human to accept their cases. And professionally speaking, I think that those who study law – especially when they just start their education - think that they can contribute to the realization of justice. We wanted to know where justice was and why it is not realized and why what we studied couldn’t add up to a desired result by putting the victims out of misery.

You said you were in touch with the issue. Do you know how many people were infected with the virus? Many … many people. But my child was the first one. He was the first victim. He was the first victim to make my life miserable. Many things cannot be told. The event destroyed me.

We believed that the case was a touchy subject for the French government because many former French statesmen were involved in it. We’re not very optimistic about negation but we do certainly use it for a peaceful settlement of the legal conflict.

No one can claim that they understand your situation.

My appearance may seem good but I’m destroyed from within.

I have to take many pills every day. I feel sick all the time.

Do you know how many patients used the factor? About 0 people. Much more than that. It was not only in Iran. I mean just in Iran.

The main defendant of this case - distributing tainted blood in nearly countries including Iran - is Mr. Fabious. He’s currently the French Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was also brought to trial in France. He has managed to get away with it so far but the truth will out. We believe that the case can be dealt with in both personal and public levels.

When tainted blood products were imported into Iran from France my brother Hussein was seven and I was about six months. When Hussein was seven years old he got bleeding and therefore used the factor and as a result infected with HIV. He was informed right away. But I wasn’t. When I was my health deteriorated. Finally, they said that my test for HIV was positive. Hussein passed away three years ago when he was . I was infected with HIV years ago. I am suffering a lot and I will suffer a lot. I’m really in deplorable conditions. I’m suffering a lot. Well, sign this part.

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The Production team requested a response from the Sanofi-Aventis Company concerning the raised issues. The company confined itself to just one statement. The statement reads: Institut Mérieux did not have a monopoly in any country where Factor VIII was sold. Sanofi Pasteur has always continued dialogue with health authorities and patients. Sanofi Pasteur examines each claim addressed to them and processes them in co-operation with the other Factor VIII manufacturers which supplied product at that time. This allows them to compensate patients when it is established that the patients were infected by Factor VIII (whatever the origin of the product so that patients do not need to prove that it was Factor VIII produced by the Institut Mérieux). Sanofi Pasteur is committed to this course of action regardless of the country concerned.

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