German Medical Scandal: Experiments carried out on communist patients for capitalist pharmaceutical companies


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Many of us read with abhorrence about the so-called ‘Medical Experiments’ that were carried out on prisoners during the second World War by the Nazi regime in Germany and the Japanese Imperial Army in China. Terms like ‘Unit 731’ (Japan’s covert chemical and biological warfare research and development establishment at Pingfang, north-east China) and Josef Mengele’s ‘Twins’ (experiments carried out on 1,500 Jewish twins at Auschwitz in Poland) should never be allowed to disappear from the human conscience.

However, it is a sad fact that society has still not fully learned the lessons from these past ‘medical’ atrocities.

Yesterday (29th December 2012) the Berliner Tagesspiegel reported that between 1983 and 1989 there were 165 trial studies carried out to test medication from western pharmaceutical companies in the former communist East German State (DDR). Apparently the patients were often unaware that they were human guinea pigs and that the drugs the were taking had not been approved for use.

For German readers the original Tagesspiegel article can be found here.

According to a further article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (also of 29th December 2012) a western pharmaceutical company was claimed to have paid 860,000 DM (approximately 440,0000 euro) for one such study in the former communist German republic. The article points out that such research, without the full knowledge and approval of the patients would have been illegal under East German (as well as West German) law. The Tagesspiegel reported that it has statements or other supporting evidence from seven cases. In the files of the former DDR Health Ministry formal declarations of patients’ approval to participate in such trials could not be found. The German article from the Sueddeutsche Zeitung can be found here.

According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung there are earlier reports in the media in which patients involved in such studies have died. The Tagesspeigel reported, for example, about a DDR teacher with a heart condition who died after receiving a placebo in place of appropriate heart medication as part of a trial. In 1989 in another instance a trial in a Magdeburger Hospital had to be abandoned due to multiple fatalities.

As with other German medical scandals I have reported to my international readership this is just the beginning of what is going to be a major issue for Germany and the western medical community as a whole. Let us not forget that although we might consider that the DDR was an authoritarian regime their partners in these potential crimes against humanity were western pharmaceutical companies. We normally expect to rely upon the highest standards of integrity and medical ethics from such companies. Presumably as these investigations continue the names of the companies and the key players in this scandal will come to light.

This story is not likely to go away quickly.

If you are interested in some of the other scandals I have featured on my website please take a look at the following links. You might like to note the dates when I first reported these issues to my international readership – Chris likes to get the important Alpine News to you first. Some of my past stories have since gathered considerable momentum and those involved are now facing the consequences of their actions (or in some cases their lack of action):

21st July 2012: How can I get a human liver – without waiting? (Try Göttingen) – German Transplantation Scandal “Livers for Sale”

14th July 2012: Jews and Muslims Unite Against German Court Ruling that religious Circumcision is a ‘Bodily Injury’ (“The Worst Attack on Jewish Life in Germany Since the Holocaust“)

23rd June 2012: “Doctors are legally allowed to accept gifts from Pharmaceutical Companies” – In Germany

You will find other interesting articles from the German Press featured in my section on the Alpine Press. These can be found using the link here.

Chris Duggleby

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