HUMAN GUINEA PIGS FOR PARTY PILL Human trials are being carried out on a new synthetic legal high that is designed to mimic the effects of Ecstasy. The new drug, called Ease, is being sold privately by legal high designer Matt Bowden to a "clinical trial" group of volunteers. Mr Bowden was behind the creation of the current crop of BZP-based pills which have turned into a massive industry with an estimated 20 million pills sold in the past five years. Mr Bowden said Ease had shown none of the damaging characteristics of Ecstasy in early trials on animals. "Animal studies suggest it does not share the mechanism by which brain damage and addictive effects are thought to be produced, and so Ease should have considerably less potential for harm than Ecstasy." But the new secret compound and the trials have brought concern from associate health minister Jim Anderton, who told the Herald on Sunday he had sought legal advice from the Ministry of Health and the Crown Law Office. Mr Anderton said the advice from the health ministry had warned against potential high liability over public risk because of the human test subjects. He had yet to receive advice from Crown Law. "I've asked ... what are the legal issues around trialling substances that could have harmful effects on human beings without all the safeguards in medical trials?" Mr Anderton, who described himself as "inherently conservative" about drugs, said Mr Bowden should consider trialling his product, as pharmaceutical companies did, in repeated, controlled laboratory trials, before human experimentation. "If in trialling it on human beings it is shown not to be safe, they have trouble on their hands." Mr Bowden said the trial product did not have the neurotoxic properties that Ecstasy had. He said he hoped the new pill would help Ecstasy users stop taking the illegal drug and switch to something he believes is safer. "This is an innovative, yet commonsense approach to minimising the harm of illegal drug use."