updated 3/2/2007 5:55:52 PM ET 2007-03-02T22:55:52

Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into vaccine trials by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC that were allegedly conducted on children without parents' permission.

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The Prosecutor General's office said in a statement dated Monday and posted on its Web site Friday that investigators began the probe at a hospital in Volgograd, about 550 miles southeast of Moscow, after several children who received the vaccines fell ill and parents raised questions.

More than 100 children between the ages of one and two were given the vaccines during the trails, which have since been halted, the statement said.

Prosecutors said the deputy director of the hospital had been paid $50,000 to participate in the trials and that such tests on minors were illegal in Russia. They also said parents had been told the vaccines were humanitarian aid.

GlaxoSmithKline officials could not be immediately reached for comment, but Michael Crow, the head of GSK's Russian operations, told Dow Jones Newswires that the allegations were unsubstantiated and untrue.

"All of our trials undergo rigorous scrutiny and this study had been fully authorized by all the necessary Russian agencies," he said.

Crow said the tests began in 2005 as part of a wider study of pediatric vaccines on 5,700 children across Europe. Of those, 1,000 were in Russia and 100 participated in the study in Volgograd, he said. The vaccines were Varilrix, which is for chickenpox, Priorix, which is for mumps, measles and rubella and Priorix Tetra, which would treat all four diseases.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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