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French medics on trial for CJD deaths

Seven doctors and pharmacists were went on trial in France on Wednesday over the deaths of more than 100 people from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), reported the Guardian Unlimited.

The deaths occurred years after the victims, while children, were treated with contaminated human growth hormones, collected from the pituitary glands of human corpses.

Children in France continued to be treated for stunted growth with such hormones until 1988, when security and hygiene rules were strengthened.

The practice of obtaining the hormones from human pituitary glands was stopped in Britain, the US and 12 other countries in 1985 following the death of a 21-year-old American. Following the ban, those countries used synthetic treatments.

The scandal is one of the biggest to affect public health in France, and the defendants face charges including manslaughter and deception. The medics and administrators, now in their 70s and 80s, are accused to ignoring warning  signs and the dangers of CJD infection.

If convicted, six of the defendants could receive a custodial sentence of up to four years. A pharmacology professor, also charged with corruption, could face ten years in prison.

Defence lawyers have said that their clients acted in good faith according to the medical knowledge available to them.

Guardian Unlimited