France: Responsible but not Guilty?

Share this item
Tools
 Podcast
 RSS

This documentary investigates the tainted blood scandal that started in the 80's from France but quickly extended internationally to countries such as: Iran, Iraq, Argentina, Tunisia, and Portugal as 9.800 blood packages were exported. During the mid 80s HIV tainted blood was transfused to French patients and HIV tainted blood products were given to Hemophilia patients both in France and abroad. As a result the scandal has claimed the lives of an unknown number of people so far but has never been closed since the responsible people were never declared guilty. But how did such a great scandal develop and why? Through the personal stories of victims or their families this documentary will go through the events that took place between 81 and 86.

TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00

SOUNDBITE [French], Unknown man on TV: “The disease coming from the West, due to the first cases appearing in the male communities of New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it was quickly baptised, ‘the homosexual syndrome’ Today, American researchers call it AIDS,
the French SIDA, or Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome.”

Narration: When HIV virus appeared in 1981, it soon became one of the world’s most serious health and development challenges. For the first few years it was thought that the only populations at risk and subject to contract HIV/AIDS. were: homosexuals and drug addicts. In 1983, the American Administration asked the laboratories to refuse blood donors from these populations. In France, the blood donation followed a different system.

SOUNDBITE [French], Unknown man on TV: AIDS has traversed the Atlantic Ocean. Fifty nine cases have appeared in France.”

Narration: And here was the origin of the Blood Scandal, which made the HIV virus travel all over the world to countries which received blood from the French private laboratory, which was exporting blood products for hemophiliacs: Mérieux Institute, today Sanofi Pasteur. Mérieux Institute was in the 80’s, the biggest French pharmaceutical laboratory exporting blood products.

SOUNDBITE [French], Charles Merieux, Chairman of Institute Merieux: “Today, 20% of the Mérieux Institute’s turnover is derived from exports, with a turnover of approximately 3 billion French francs.We have many bureaus, especially veterinary ones, but we are also trying to be present in the human pharmaceutical field. We are established in the most traditionally affected regions like: South America, where we have four laboratories at the moment,
and one laboratory in the Middle East, in Iran.”

Narration: 15 years later, it is in countries such as Argentina, Tunisia, Greece, Iraq, Iran and some others, that the blood scandal bursts.

Interview [French], Oliver Duplessis, Victim: “My family experienced two aspects of the tainted blood scandal. In my father’s case, the contamination was due to blood extraction at high risk places, like prisons.
And in my mother’s case, the contamination came from my father, because the people who had received blood at risk were not informed of it, and so they were left, for many years contaminating their surroundings.
Bothe my parents were then contaminated. My father died in 1987. My mother is still alive but in very painful conditions, heavily affected by the treatment of the disease.”

Narration: Jacques Leibowitch is a French medical doctor and clinical researcher known for his contributions to the treatment and knowledge of the HIV virus. He is the father in Europe of the first tri-therapy treatment for the long-term control of HIV in the correctly treated patient. These pioneer techniques and his vision of the HIV Virus saved Olivier’s mother twice. Doctor Leibowitch differentiates the scandal between hemophiliacs and transfused people.

Interview [English], Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, Doctor Specialist in HIV Virus: “The transfusion of hemophiliacs started as of 1981 or 1980 in America, 1981/2 in France, as we could retrospectively date it. And it became 60% in France, 80% in America, by 83-85. It was already done in 85! The blood contamination scandal, for transfused people, only starts in 1985, when the test to detect seropositive donors, contaminating donnors with their blood, is only available in France in July 1985.”

Narration: In 1985, the French National Centre for blood transfusion knew that the blood products for hemophiliacs were all contaminated but they continued to distribute them. Maître Honnorat is a French lawyer who has defended victims from France and Tunisia. He says that the monopoly of the National Blood Transfusion Centre was at the origin of this scandal.

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Interview [French], Maitre Francois Honnorat, Victims’ Lawyer: After World War II,
France progressively oversaw a monopoly. The National Blood Transfusion Centre
gained a full monopoly of the French business to collect blood from donors and transform that blood into derivative products, which can be called drugs, such as dry plasma, coagulation factor, and sell those products in the French territory. When the CNTS (National Centre for Blood Transfusion) made the observation of its tainted products, and their danger, and of their lethality, it chose to distribute the majority of these of products in the French territory. This led to an increase in the contamination of hemophiliacs and people receiving blood transfusions, in France. This sale of products continued until October 1985.”

Narration: In 1983, countries such as Austria and America found that heating blood products killed the HIV virus. The same year, both, the American company Travenol and Immuno, the Austrian one, proposed these products to the Director of the CNTS, Doctor Michel Garretta. There was no answer. Dear Doctor Garretta, Immuno will make available to CNTS a technology developed in house for the heat-treatment of factor VIII and IX concentrates.

Interview [English], Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, Doctor Specialist in HIV Virus: It takes 10.000 donors to prepare those heavily concentrated anti-hemophiliac fractions, pro-coagulant fractions, that they need, congenitelly. So that, 10.000 donors, it takes only one to be seropositive, and carry the virus into the whole batch and the whole batch is contaminated. Thus, it makes a very simple difference.”

Narration: In 1991, the French journalist, Anne-Marie Casteret, whohas died since,made this scandal public when she published in a well-known French magazine, an article denouncing a report written in May 1985 by the CNTS. Anne-Marie Casteret brought to light that the CNTS, knowing the existence of the heated products continued distributing the non-heated ones, knowing that they were not only contaminated but also there were contaminants of HIV.In 1983 we didn’t know yet that those products were efficient against HIV even though they were used internationally. In 1984 we knew for sure that the French products were contaminated but we delayed (the heated-products) because there was no centre, out of the seven that we have in France, capable of producing those products. So we waited until the 29th of May 1985 when the heads of the National Transfusion Centre met and decided that they cannot stop the distribution because that would be too expensive. Later, there was a ministerial decision that the heated products will be only distributed from the 18thAugust 1985.”

Narration: But it is only in 1992 that she wrote a book denouncing the whole scandal. It took seven years for someone to denounce what was happening in France with the blood transfusions. François Gèze, the editor from that book, remembers how fully aware the journalist was of making this scandal public.

SOUNDBITE [French], Francois Geze, Former General Director: It was a very difficult investigation, which began in 1985, when the elements from the scandal started to appear but we still knew very little from all this, and only a few journalists were working on it. All these criminal decisions that resulted in hundreds of deaths in France but later in other countries, all these decisions were taken by only a few people who had the full picture, and in secret. Afterwards, since they were not proud of themselves, they contrived to conceal it. A state secret, it had become a state secret.”

Narration: Just after the publication of Anne-Marie Catseret’s book, Michel Garretta, the Director of the CNTS, resigned.

SOUNDBITE [French], Presenter Patrick Poivre D’arvor: “Good evening, we learned yesterday just before this newscast, highly affected by the controversy caused by the contamination of haemophiliacs with the HIV virus, Doctor Garretta has decided to resign as director of the National Centre for Blood Transfusion.”

SOUNDBITE [French], Dr. Michel Garretta Director of the National Blood Transfusion Centre: “I would like to speak again on behalf of all the actors of the blood transfusion system in France,whether they are donors or professionals from the transfusion system. The contamination of hemophiliacs with the HIV virus is a tragedy by which we all stand. Furthermore, all the fear and distress which hemophiliacs are facing affect us greatly.”

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

INTERVIEW [French], Edmund-Luc Henry, Victim and Honory President of the French Hemopholiac Association: At the time I didn’t militate, I was just a haemophiliac and so I was not at all aware of what was going on,
like most Frenchhemophiliacs. What’s more, I didn’t know that at the CNTS,
at the National Blood Transfusion Centre,they knew that the batches were contaminated,
not only did they know, but they had instructions from Michel Garretta, in June 1985, to distribute the remaining stock of tainted products before using the ones that were not contaminated.”

Narration: During the confidential meeting that took place between the heads of the CNTS on the 29th of May 1985 Dr. Garretta stated:

This is a triple problem:

-a legal problem

-a moral problem and a financial problem

When Antoine was born, in 1983, the doctor did not detect he was a hemophiliac. This gave him the chance not to be contaminated. But when his mother learned in 1985 about her son’s disease, she was proposed 2 different products: a contaminated one and a non contaminated but for this last one, the doctors did not assure Antoine’s mother it would treat properly her son’s disease.

INTERVIEW [French], Antoino Lubino, Hemophiliac: “They asked my mother to choose between two products. One, which was potentially contaminated with the virus but which treated hemophiliacs, or another product that had yet to be tested on hemophiliacs, but in which there was no virus. That one came from the USA, and was heat treated, so there was no virus present. But they said it had not been tested on hemophiliacs.”

Narration: But already in 1983, the heated products were being used for treating hemophiliacs:Doctor Garretta, This new product treated with heat, commercialized recently by Hyland, has the same activity and the same efficiency as the Hemophil Normal, but has been subjected during its production to an additional treatment phase by heat in order to reduce the viral contamination.

INTERVIEW [French], Antoino Lubino, Hemophiliac: This all happened after 1985 because they only discovered I was hemophiliac that year. Every time I went to hospital my parents had to bring their own product, the heated one that was part of the new protocol.
One day a doctor was there, I don’t know if he was fired after that or if he just left, but one day, my parents forgot the batch that I was meant o be transfused with, and this doctor stopped a nurse, because she was about to inject me with the product from the centre. He said I should never be injected with products from the hospital, that I should always bring my own, because there was a problem with the products the others were using there.”

Narration: Another thing Anne-Marie Casteret denounced was that the hospitals had the contaminated non-heated products while the heated but safe ones had to be bought elsewhere. There was as a clear attempt to reduce the stock of non-heated products as quickly as possible on the French market or even exporting them abroad.

INTERVIEW [French], Antoino Lubino, Hemophiliac: “This tallies with what a doctor had told me. She had been confronted with a dilemma during those days. Either, we treat hemophiliacs who arrive with a hemorrhage, and we inject them products of dubious quality,
or we do not treat the patient and just see what will happen. That was a real conflict.”

Narration: Unacceptably slow decisions, under evaluation of risks, financial decisions being discussed by doctors. One year after Doctor Garretta resigned the scandal brought him, in 1992, to appear in front of justice, together with Dr. Netter, health system general director, Dr. Roux, General Director of the National Health Laboratory and Dr. Allain, Responsible at the CNTS for the Research and Development Department. All of them had suspended sentences and the only one who went to prison was Dr. Garretta.

TIME CODE; 15:00_20:00

Interview [English], Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, Doctor Specialist in HIV Virus: “Garretta and consults were accused and he went to prison, because he had done that continue to sell contaminated fractions. Whereas, there was another means to avoid this. When you have a means, you have an obligation to use it. Obviously.”

Interview [French], Maitre Francois Honnorat, Victims’ Lawyer: “I have to say that in 1985, there was a practice in France, but also in many western countries, which was when surgical operations took place, safety transfusions were being practiced. So they transfused blood during an operation to prevent a bleeding risk. So many people who had been operated, were unaware of having received a blood transfusion, and therefore, they were also unaware that they could have been exposed to a contamination risk. And that’s how a number of people were transfused without knowing it, contaminated their surroundings, their partners, and even their children. There have even been cases in the mother to child context.”

INTERVIEW [French], Maitre Mehana Mouhou, Victims’ Lawyer: “They stole her health,
now, they steal her rights. So here is a woman, obliged to go on a hunger strike.
Imagine, 71 years old, in winter, in Paris. Sleeping the whole night in her car, well, not really sleeping... In reality with this cold, she can’t sleep.”

INTERVIEW [French], Christiane Leveuf, Victim: “My contamination happened in 1980 but they said nothing until 1991, even though I was blood donor for plasma.
And even then, I only knew it because I was in charge of children with leukemia and I wanted to give a bit more than my blood which was bone marrow, to hopefully save a 7 year old girl.
So that is when I went back to the French Blood Establishment. I had to go 3 days in a row
for them to end up saying, “We don’t want your donation because you are contaminated”.
But I had been contaminated for 11 years, and they never told me. And they continued taking my blood donation, even if the law said in March 1983, the Minister said, “Stop taking blood from at-risk people”. But they took my blood until 1991, which means that the Blood Establishments in France did not follow the laws. Later, when I asked for further explanations,
they told me, “your blood was thrown away”. I can’t understand why they called if it was only to throw away my blood. And if I had not wanted to make a bone marrow donation,
I think they would never have told me directly. The fact to have had to wait 11 years (to be told) took away all my chances to be cured. Because we started to know about it in 1989, so if they had told me from the beginning, I could have started to take a treatment that could have cured me. But there was an omerta, a secret, a silence. They could not talk about it, they could not say, because they knew it since 1989 and maybe even earlier.”

Narration: In 1983 there was a new law prohibiting the collection of blood from patients at risk. Nevertheless, the collection of blood in prisons continued in France after that date.

Interview [French], Oliver Duplessis, Victim: At the beginning of the 1980s the experts of the Council of Europe issued a highly important report, which asked those countries which continued with these practices, to immediately stop. And for that purpose, they highlighted the risks. France did not listen. It was the only country that continued, with bureaucratic arrogance typical of our country. The Val-de Marne Centre was particularly unscrupulous. They drew blood more than 10 times per year from these kinds of places. So people who suffered from cancer like my father, and who received that blood... it’s as if you start a fire in a dry savannah. Then my father became skeletal, and had a series of bizarre problems with his skin that were already known for indicating the presence of the HIV virus. And what do the doctors write in the medical file? Excellent condition, excellent condition, excellent condition.
What’s even weirder is that when the judiciary searched for my father’s medical file, they found a file that said totally unrealistic things.
With all this happening, my poor father did not take any precaution and he infected my mother.
So we enter a universe where we find people with power. In ministerial offices, among politicians with the director of the blood centre and in the most concerned hospitals.
For them, all this did not exist. It’s a Stalinist universe. The facts are denied by a politico-bureaucratic machine. People die, but they die in silence.”

TIME CODE: 21:00 _25:00

SOUDNBITE [French], Laurent Fabius, Prime Minister of France: “This is probably the most difficult moment of his career, confronted with victims who believe he is responsible for a process that has ended in their contamination. Lauren Fabius will try to demonstrate that he reacted quickly, regarding the information he had at the time.”

Interview [English], Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, Doctor Specialist in HIV Virus: “Every week, we infected more with a virus associated to HIV, the HIV virus, and therefore we were taking an unacceptable risk for those people who had not asked to become HIV positive.”

Narration: This is probably the most difficult moment of his career, confronted with victims who believe he is responsible for a process that has ended in their contamination. Lauren Fabius will try to demonstrate that he reacted quickly,regarding the information he had at the time.

Narration: While the test to detect HIV was developed by the American company Abbott but not distributed in France, In 1984, Dr. Leibowitch, was already using a test to measure precisely the levels of active virus in the patient before and under treatment. Dr Dominique Mathez, Leibowitch’s main collaborator, quickly developed this test under urgency of the situation.

Interview [English], Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, Doctor Specialist in HIV Virus: “The seropositive test becomes available, legally and officially in July 1985in France. We had a homemade test, here, in Garches, for our patients and for the blood donors that François Pinon, a transfuse person asked me to test in a pilot way. We were approached by Abbott people and said, “Don’t you want to test our system that is much more simple and it is technically superior?” I said. “Of course!” Let’s do a parallel study where we do our test and we do your test and we compare them to see if they are good enough both of them or one is better than the other one. So obviously I signed it!And I was not interested in money.”

Interview [French], Maitre Francois Honnorat, Victims’ Lawyer: “We have to remember that Dr.Montagnier’s team at Pasteur Institute isolated a virus that he called “LAVE”,
which the designated as being responsible for the HIV infection. At the very same time, in the USA, a different research team also isolated a virus, which they called “HIV”,
and we don’t know until 1985, if those two biological elements are similar or different.
In the USA, Abbott will be faster than Pasteur in developing a test at an industrial scale.
In 1985, Pasteur has a delay, it is not capable of producing the same quantity of tests as Abbott
so there will be two competitive patents: a French and an American patent.”

SOUNDBITE [French], Dr. Luc Montaignier, Identifier in France of HIV Virus: “In what time frame will you have the blood test ready and in what time frame the vaccination against HIV?

The time frame for the test is short, it is only a matter of industrial facilities.

Will you have as many facilities as the Americans or will you collaborate with them?

I think that in terms of industrial facilities it is a different matter. From the scientific point of view, we have a close collaboration. This collaboration will strengthen because to find out if the two viruses are identical, Dr. Gallo will send one of his staff to our laboratory. Regarding the vaccine we must be very careful.

Is that true?

It’s true! We were very annoyed at first because we didn’t have the proof of what we were saying. We had the notion that the tests had been delayed but not the proof. But, in Lucas’ Report in September, there appeared what the journalists were looking for: an interministerial meeting from the 9th of May where it was said very clearly that the tests had to be postponed.

They postponed the American test so…

So Pasteur could produce enough quantity.

Narration: In 1991, the Chief Inspector of Social Affairs, Michel Lucas, was asked to write a report about the situation of the blood transfusion and the HIV virus in 1985. This was considered to be the crucial date for this scandal. Today, at his old age, Michel Lucas still remembers he was also asked not to contact the French journalist Anne-Marie Casteret, to which he did not listen to and worked closely with her. This led to a report, containing confidential documents, like the account made from a meeting in May 1985 in the presence of the Adviser to the Prime Minister, where they stated: The American test has presented a considerable advantage: it’s half the price of the French product so a decision is necessary if we want to preserve the future of the French product. The idea which has been advanced is that of signing an agreement between Diagnostics Pasteur and the National Blood Transfusion Centre.A decision is needed quickly because the National Health Laboratory cannot hold Abbott’s very long registration file beyond May 13 1985, which is a deadline given to the company, after which the risk of a litigation exists.In February 1999, for the first time in France, 3 ministers had to appear before the justice charged of manslaughter. Laurent Fabius was the Prime Minister at the time, and from his government the Health Minister and the Minister of Social Affairs were charged. The result, only Edmond Hervé was considered responsible with a suspended sentence. The French journalist, Elisabeth Fleury, remembers being present at the trial and what the reaction of the 3 ministers was.

TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00

INTERVIEW [French], Elisabeth Fleury, Reporter: “All the cameras pointed at Laurent Fabius and he was extremely concentrated, he did not take it easy at all. He had a remarkable defence driven by Michel Zaoui. His defence was a classic one. He stated that he was surrounded by consultants, chiefs of staff and different advisors who eventually alerted him, and that once he was alerted, he did what it was his duty to do. Georgina Dufoix and Edmond Hervé who were in his government and had a number of responsibilities were specifically implicated for not having alerted Laurent Fabius on time.”

INTERVIEW [French], Georgina Dufoix, Minister of Social Affairs: That responsibility is directly on my shoulders today, so I feel responsible. Nevertheless, I don’t feel guilty.”

INTERVIEW [French], Maitre Patrick Maisonneuve, Edmond Herve’s Lawyer: “Edmond Hervé retained a charge of responsibility that he has always denied. Responsibility, I must say, as a principle. He was not sentenced. He was exempted from penalty. That is why I say today that he was not subject of a criminal conviction. There was just that responsibility, something quite strange. I have the feeling, years later, that the politicians and judges from those days did not have the courage to completely absolve the three former ministers; which is a choice perhaps more political than judicial. It seems as if they had been obliged to designatethe responsibility to only one out of the three. Otherwise, it is not understandable why there is that exemption of penalty.”

Narration: This letter of Mai 1985, directed to the Health Minister, Edmond Hervé, informed him of the urgent need to take a decision in regards to the tainted products and through the letter, he was asked to help in the decisions that had to be made. He did not react in time. This last decision, in addition to its economic impact, among others brings the problem of its effectiveness when reaching the expiry date, and that the possibility of substitution by foreign heated products would have to take place. Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy is the judge who instructed the non-ministerial aspect of the case of the "tainted blood". But the investigating chamber of Paris in a judgment of 2002, and the Supreme Court in a judgment of 2003 decided that there were no grounds for prosecution. She also indicted several directors of blood transfusion centres for still holding, during the years of 84-85,blood collections in prisons, causing several contaminations of the AIDS virus.

TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00

INTERVIEW [French], Marie-Odile BErtella-Geffroy, Former Judge OF Instruction: “I have worked for four years,taking up the file that was still being investigated, which had sent Mr.Garretta and others before the criminal court for an offence of aggravated deception.
So I had transferred all my files... it was huge! There were 130 files for the French Court of Law
concerning the trial of the Ministers.Starting from those files, the three Ministers were judged.
But my file, it was just stored! It was in shambles!"

INTERVIEW [French], Christiane Leveuf, Victim: “When the lights are off, it’s impressive,I stay completely in the dark. And there, I can just think and of course many times I feel very bad”

Interview [English], Dr. Jacques Leibowitch, Doctor Specialist in HIV Virus: “But the prosecutor, in the end, proved quote and quote, his case, that Abboott did not exist in the real of the possibilities, to cover the market and protect the blood recipients, from tainted blood. And that was so surprising to all of those who has been part of the tainted blood scandal. I in particular, but others! That I went to the Abbott group, to check this information that came out of nowhere. And there was no way that it could be crosschecked. It was the word of the prosecutor and a final word. And since then, it has never been debated, in any court of law, in any documentary, in any book! But I remember calling the Abbott industry and asking them: “what is this story? you told us that you could take the market by 30% and they say you had nothing” They said, “Ah, it’s a pack of lie” “Ah, so you have documents?” “Well, we had documents (says the Director of Pasteur France) but they burnt last week in our offices” Ah, really?! Therefore, Fabius was washed of any guilt.”to have been reduced to this situation; having to defend my rights this way. And I feel a kind of rush of hatred when I think that the same people who put me in this situation are now sleeping in comfortable beds.”

Interview [French], Oliver Duplessis, Victim: “My father died alone, hidden. And at this moment, you would have thought that they gave as an explanation, Humane explanation.
Not at all. A simple intern took my mother into a corridor, in front of many people, with this simple sentence, “Your husband just died from HIV, you must be surely contaminated yourself,
you should have a test. Goodbye.” My mother was not even tested there. She was not even offered a glass of water, she was not even offered a few minutes in an office. No! That was too much! She had to leave the place. So when you see that, with elements at the highest level of the State which were later revealed by researchers, and also with the testimonies at the field level, we understand that there was an overall policy of fraud. So there must be big reasons, important reasons, for a developed country claiming to be humanist to act like that.”

TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00

Narration: When the scandal also burst at a global level, no one thought of coincidence but rather in the economic reasons that had pushed French public actors to take wrong decisions. Why otherwise, would a private laboratory like the Mérieux Institute export contaminated antihemophiliac products to countries where the laboratory was established since the 1950’s, when Charles Mérieux, decided to send his best technicians abroad to run away from the recession the Institute was experiencing in France.

Interview [French], Maitre Francois Honnorat, Victims’ Lawyer: “Mérieux, who had products made out of blood which had not been tested and had neither been processed with the heating technology would continue, until the beginning of the year 1986, to export potentially contaminated products. Those products would be exported in different directions,
to a number of countries in the North of Africa, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and countries in South America. In this way, many Tunisian hemophiliacs were contaminated
during 1985 or in the beginning of 1986 by French products, in particular, Mérieux’s products.”

Narration: The contaminations in countries like Tunisia, Iraq or even Libya, were published in different media in France but the exportations of Factor VIII contaminated to Iran were never told before. Today, Iranian victims have gathered energy to speak out and make their cases also known in France.

INTERVIEW [ Persian], Fatemeh Tayyebi, Victim’s Mother:“I am FatemehTayyebi, Massoud Naeemi’s mother. He was the first child in Iran to be infected with HIV, he was seven. I married in 1974. My first child was a girl! After five years I gave birth to a boy. We named him Massoud.
After 9 months, we realised that he was a haemophiliac with Factor VIII deficiency.
After 6 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 6 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, words fail me.”

INTERVIEW [Persian], Ahmad Ghavidel, Member of Iranian Hemophilia Society: “We believe that the French people must know about the greed and avarice of a French company that betrayed the trust of others to knowingly export its tainted medicines to 10 countries in the world. We believe that 200 patients were infected with HIV through tainted imported blood products. The HIV version that hemophiliacs with Factor VIII deficiency were infected with
is different from the HIV version, which was previously only found in Iran. When examining HIV infected cases caused through ways other than using French blood products, it was clear that the HIV version Iranian haemophiliacs were infected with is not endemic to Iran. It means that it is different from the Iranian version of the virus. We believe that this is a stain on the history of the 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”

TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00


Narration: What I can say is that this activity, which was relatively small compared to our turnover. Today, with the knowledge we have, I believe we had some months of delay. That delay as a biologist I regret enormously and that delay, as President, I assume it. My child has to have injections every day. 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?

Unfortunately, she was infected with HIV.

How old is she? How old are you? She is 15 years old.

INTERVIEW [Persian], Ahmad Ghavidel, Member of Iranian Hemophilia Society: “Do those in the Sanofi-Aventis company know that 20 wives of the haemophiliacs 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 understand?”

Narration: Frankly speaking, now that some time has passed my regret is… I am speaking about today, because at the time I had no doubts, no one had doubts. It is evident that I would have had to suspend it (the exportation) having the doubt But once again, we did not have that doubt, in those days. That is the whole problem.

Even if those 4 months: August, September, October and November
there were measures taken by the French Government?

Yes, but we had stock that had been taken from the main blood transfusion centres.

And the problem we had until November was that we didn’t know if the products had been tested or not. In those days, with our pharmaceutical visa, it was not compulsory.
Even today it is advised but not compulsory (to test the products) And so we had that delay of a few weeks.

INTERVIEW [French], Marie-Odile BErtella-Geffroy, Former Judge OF Instruction: “He did not have all the permissions, but he kept doing it... And he even continued after the 1st October 1985, to export those products.”

Narration: At the Sorbonne University in Paris, Geraldine Chavrier, lawyer, specialist in health issues, launched in September 2013an international witness appeal. She denounces the disappearance of 200 files.

INTERVIEW [French], Géraldine Chavrier, Lawyer And Professor At Panthéon-Sorbonne University: “The idea was to find out if there were hospitals which had also exclusively received Factor VIII products coming from Mérieux Institute at the same time. With that information I think that the judge could have established causation. Causation which has always been missing, until now, in order obtain prosecutions. In 2004, when the State Council was pronounced, the person in charge of reading the law before the judges, hand down their statement, and said that there were 200 case files pending before the Administrative Court of Appeal. However, the State Council refused to condemn the French State due to insufficient proof, this resulted in the lack of causation. But what is strange is that we can’t find those 200 files anywhere.”

TIME CODE: 45:00_52:00

Narration: In January 2014, our Iranian team, requested a response from Sanofi Pasteur, the pharmaceutical company who bought Mérieux’s Institute., concerning the raised issues. The response states: Institut Mérieux did not have a monopoly in any country where Factor VIII was sold and it said that they 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) We give documents from an Iranian hospital to our experts to identify if in a hypothetical case of a more formal and legal claim to Mérieux Institute, these documents could serve as evidence.

INTERVIEW [French], Géraldine Chavrier, Lawyer And Professor At Panthéon-Sorbonne University: “Alain Mérieux was never judged personally. But the Mérieux Institute was prosecuted. There was no penalty but at least there was a moral condemnation, by a French judge, when the Court of Appeal from Lyon 2002 had to judge the exportation of tainted batches of Factor VIII to Libya, and it judged the moral terms,which is strange as this is not the role of the judiciary. This was probably linked to the failure to prosecute. In a strange way they ruled that the Mérieux Institute had exported, very late, Factor VIII non-heated batches without notification to the country of exportation, that they were non-heated batches and therefore, lethal.”

Narration: The fact that antihemophiliac products arrived in Iran from France seems quite sure, but to prove this in a legal way is a different matter. The causal link, which in this scandal has always been difficult to determine, is what is missing. Christiane Leveuf knows this problem well. She had to prove several times her contamination in front of the justice in France.

INTERVIEW [French], Christiane Leveuf, Victim: “Back in those days I was not sick
I stayed in the hospital 15 days; during this time they examined me extensively, to see what was wrong; whether, I was hemophiliac or not. And on the way out an intern told me, ‘I give you these 3 papers, hold on to them because you have never been sick’. So, I had the proof of my contamination, at least the proof of my transfusion. So, when I had to go through the medical tests during the trial, the experts said, “you are lying, you have never been contaminated, you have never been transfused, there are no files from you at the hospital”. That is what they do, they destroy the files. But, I had also been a blood donor, so I had my donor’s cards. And when they told me, “you have never been hospitalized, the doctor doesn’t know you and you never gave away your blood” I threw onto the table the answer to the three questions. And in any case, because there was progress in medicine, and we could genotype the virus: transfused, drugs or multiple partner, I had the blood transfused version of the virus.”

INTERVIEW [Persian], Ahmad Ghavidel, Member of Iranian Hemophilia Society: “The Sanofi- Avetis company has paid compensation for infecting Iraqi patients with HIV by the Mérieux Institute.
But why doesn’t it pay Iranian victims compensation?
We even suggest that instead of paying our patients compensation, the Sanofi-Aventis company
makes up for it by giving medicines in several phases.”

INTERVIEW [French], Géraldine Chavrier, Lawyer And Professor At Panthéon-Sorbonne University: “Transactions have taken place, we don’t know which country dealt with France, so we don’t know
who has not been compensated. We also don’t know when there was an economic compensation,
if the victims received the money. If it has been done from State to State we can’t have proof
that the countries receiving compensation have paid an amount to the victims.”

Narration: I think often, when I am in this civilized place, which is the Louvre Museum, which embodies cultural heritage, that this cultural heritage does not transmit values. And I would like to say to all those responsible but not guilty, or guilty but not responsible, do not forget the values that our civilization has left you. I think that when we take some distance, and learn a lesson from this scandal, we understand that it exceeds men and institutions and it appears as a general problem which is one of civilization.
Progressively, our countries had the feeling that barbarism had disappeared, and that humanism prevailed. But today, in regards to many subjects, though this one in particular, one wonders if discreetly, insidiously, hidden on a democratic mantle of political demagoguery
or economic interest, barbarism does not reappear. And I think that the message from the blood scandal, the message of hope, is to use it as a warning, saying please, you are killing each other,
killing people from your country and from other countries. Please, come back to civilized values.

   

Coming Up Online