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50,000 East Germans Used As Guinea Pigs In Secret Drug Trials During 1980s

May 14, 2013 09:15 PM EDT
Picture shows the main entrance to the Virchow campus of the Charite hospital in Berlin, December 20, 2012.
(Photo : Reuters)

Former East Germany may have used as many as 50,000 patients, including premature babies, as human guinea pigs during the 1980s to test new drugs in order to increase the flow of foreign currency and pharmaceuticals into the struggling communist state.

Now, years later, a top German hospital announced its decision to launch an investigation into the matter after a series of media attention issue sparked a wave out international outrage.

Among those things under investigation is just how much patient consent and knowledge there was regarding the trials among patients as well as how adverse side effects were handled, according to BBC News.

As reported by Der Siegal, documentation left over from the period shows how companies took up contracts with a corporation designed to handle exports. Intensive negotiations would then follow in which a lump sum would be agreed upon for every experiment conducted successfully.

The money, which amounted to as much as 800,000 German marks per trial (or about $520,000), was then divided between East Germany’s medical facilities, according to the German news outlet.

In all, the number of tests that were ordered grew from 20 in 1983 to 165 in 1988.

Hulbert Bruchmuller is one of those individuals who underwent testing when an undiscovered heart ailment landed him in the hospital when he was just 30 years old, putting his dreams of becoming a professional athlete to rest.

Without knowing it, he was then inducted into a trial of the medication Spirapril by the company Sandoz, of which 6 of the 17 patients who received the drug died before the study was finally stopped.

“We weren’t just stupid East Germans,” Bruchmuller, who today is an electrician who living off disability pension, told Der Spiegler. “But when it was presented, one just did it.”

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