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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medicine Trials, Traffic Jams and Grandfather Yeltsin

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Email the Opinion Page Editor

In response to "Drug Tests Prompt Inquiry in Volgograd" by David Nowak and Svetlana Osadchuk on March 2 and "3 Doctors Charged In Vaccine Scandal" by David Nowak on April 3.


I believe it is important to respond to articles in The Moscow Times as well as to unsubstantiated and false allegations that have been circulating regarding clinical tests GlaxoSmithKline is running in Russia.

The clinical trial OKAH-179 in Volgograd is a randomized, controlled, multicenter study to evaluate the efficacy of our vaccines against varicella, or chicken pox. The general trial is being conducted in 10 European countries -- the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia.

A total of 5,700 children are participating in the study, including 1,000 children in Russia.

Permission for the Russian study was granted by the Federal Health and Social Development Agency in full accordance with the requirements of Russian law.

GlaxoSmithKline is aware of a number of media reports of an alleged adverse event in a child participating in a clinical trial at the Volgograd Railway Hospital. As a sponsor of this trial, the company is deeply concerned that despite repeated requests from clinicians at the hospital and from GlaxoSmithKline, no medical personnel involved in the trial have been allowed to assess the child's condition to provide the necessary help.

An examination of the child's medical records and the fact that the alleged adverse event occurred 52 days after vaccination have led the medical authorities to conclude that any causal relationship with the vaccine is highly unlikely. In particular, Gennady Onishchenko, the country's chief epidemiologist, recently concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated, saying that they were "not related to the clinical trial with the Belgian vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella."

GlaxoSmithKline is committed to the highest ethical and safety standards in the conduct of clinical trials, which are conducted in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. Every clinical trial must undergo rigorous scrutiny and receive approval from the relevant government authorities, the company's ethics committee and fall in line with the company's own clinical trial policy. GlaxoSmithKline and Russian regulatory authorities have both found no evidence of misconduct in independent audits into the trial.

Dr. Oleg Milenin
Medical director
GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Russia

Solving the Traffic Problem

In response to "Gridlock Is Costing Moscow Dearly" by Tai Adelaja on April 12 and "Traffic Makes It Hard to Have a Social Life" by David Nowak on April 17.


Part of the problem could be solved with a few cans of paint. Paint special lanes on the road for use by the buses and trolley buses only. Bring out the traffic police and tow trucks to keep the special lanes clear of cars and trucks. If the public knew that buses and trolleybuses did not have to sit there with the rest of the cars in traffic jams, many more would be quite happy to use the public transport.

Also, paint a big X on every intersection, as is done elsewhere in the world. This way, drivers won't be able to drive into the intersection and block the traffic when the light is changing.

Benedikt Morak



I am both delighted and dismayed by the traffic jam articles: delighted because this is a subject that demands a public outcry, and dismayed that the No. 1 cause of gridlock was never mentioned -- a lack of common courtesy.

Why do other major capitals with severe traffic congestion seldom face similar gridlock as we do daily in Moscow? The reason is that in most countries, motorists exercise a certain amount self-discipline and courtesy toward their fellow drivers.

Russian traffic regulations clearly state that one must not block intersections or roadways in a way that impedes the flow of traffic. Yet, how many Muscovites do you see willfully blocking a busy intersection because it is their "right" to enter that intersection before the traffic light changes? How many times do you see drivers entering a partially blocked intersection without allowing the cross traffic to clear first? How many times do you see cars "double parked" on narrow streets such as Bolshaya Nikitskaya Ulitsa, impeding traffic in both directions by leaving barely enough room for one vehicle to pass through the resulting bottleneck? How many drivers understand and respect the universal "zipper" method for merging two lanes of traffic? I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the point.

Until Moscow drivers understand that it is in their own best interest to be courteous and respect the rights of other motorists, nothing is going to change.

Timm Waibel


Yeltsin Assisted Adoption

In response to "Boris Yeltsin Dies of Heart Failure" by Simon Saradzhyan on April 24.


I understand that the late President Boris Yeltsin was a controversial figure within Russia, yet my husband and I will always think of him as our daughter's grandfather.

As we began the adoption process in the late 1990s, we quickly learned that our daughter's region had a reputation for making adoption difficult. She was disabled and almost school-aged, so as the months rolled by, all I could hear was the clock ticking down on the move to an asylum -- a move that would have rendered her ineligible for adoption.

Our agency had assured us that our daughter would be home by Christmas, but by mid-December, the realization that she would not be celebrating the holidays with us filled me with grief.

I decided to send President Yeltsin and his wife a plea for their assistance to help bring our daughter home to her waiting family. I wrote him an e-mail, not as one would write a world leader, but rather as a parent with an aching heart to a man with a reputation for being a caring and loving father and grandfather.

The e-mail ended up being five pages long in English. I knew it was a long shot when I hit the send button, but I prayed that something good would come of it.

My Russian friends thought I was certifiably mad. I couldn't disagree.

The holidays came and went with no word about a court date. The adoption news from the region was not encouraging. And then, one Saturday in late February, we found a letter from Russia in our mailbox. It was from the judge in our daughter's region and looked very official.

One of our Russian friends did a quick translation. To everyone's astonishment, the judge's letter was actually addressed to a member of Yeltsin's staff in response to some sort of official status inquiry -- we were merely being sent a copy. It cited some law the judge was using to justify not granting us a court date.

Our Russian friend looked at us and confidently predicted we would get a court date. The reason for his optimism? The fact that no one would believe that an American woman working on her home computer would get the leader of Russia to take an interest in her adoption; people would assume that we must have powerful connections.

We laughed at the thought, but were touched that someone on the president's staff had acted on our behalf. Was it at Yeltsin's direction, or did we just tug on someone's heartstrings and they acted independently? We'll never know.

Just as our Russian friend had predicted, we did get a court date four months later. Tears of love and joy streamed down our faces as we sat in the orphanage director's office the day before our court hearing, holding our 7-year-old daughter for the first time.

Today, our daughter is a teen -- still petite and a little delayed. The progress she has made in all areas of her life over the past few years is nothing short of miraculous. She is beautiful, inside and out, with a giving spirit, a wonderful sense of humor, and a real zest for life.

Traveling through Moscow on the return leg of our adoption journey, we wished that we really did have "connections" because we wanted our daughter to meet the man responsible for her getting a new family. Such a meeting never took place, of course. Yeltsin left office a few months later and now, less than eight years on, he is gone.

Susan Scott

Bloomington, Illinois