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Party pill sparks official concern

Published: 6:02PM Friday April 07, 2006 Source: One News

Health officials have issued a warning about a so-called clinical drug trial being run by one of the big players in the party pill scene.

Ease is being sold on the internet - under the guise of a clinical trial - as a safe legal alternative for people using ecstasy.

But tests show the main ingredient is basically the same as in ecstasy, making it illegal to manufacture or sell.

"Because it's an analogue, which means it's similar too, it's covered by the act and there are quite severe penalties for this," says Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton.

The man selling Ease, Matt Bowden, says he stopped the trial once he realised health officials had a problem.

He says he has done nothing wrong and has acted in good faith. Bowden claims he got permission from the Ministry of Health to import the methylone.

But experts aren't just taking issue with the drug itself, they say Bowden should not be using the term "clinical trial" which implies it has been approved by medical experts as well as supervised and analysed by them.

Medical bioethics professor Grant Gillett says calling it a clinical trial is very misleading.

"The most uncharitable thought one might have is it's a kind of designer drug version of a Tupperware party," he says.

Bowden says he only ever sold to people on the trial and if he wanted to make money he would have sold it to everyone.

Jim Anderton is not convinced.

"We cannot countenance this kind of activity going on... I think it shows how quickly you can get into very difficult areas when you're playing around with so-called social or party drugs," says Anderton.

The pills are now with the drug squad while police investigate the matter.