Deadly Drug Trials: Western Firms Bribed East German Doctors
2013-05-24 0:00

By Nicola Kuhrt and Peter Wensierski | Spiegel


It wasn’t just the East German government that benefited from risky patient drug trials commissioned by Western pharmaceutical manufacturers decades ago. These companies also sent liaisons with lavish gifts to bribe and influence doctors to participate.

The presents always came in the springtime. When the representatives of Western pharmaceutical companies arrived at the Leipzig Trade Fair, they made sure that East German doctors were very well looked after.

One doctor enthusiastically described his experiences in a subsequent report to the Ministry of State Security, or Stasi. According to his account, things would get off to a cheerful start every morning at the booth run by Mack, now a Pfizer subsidiary: "There was champagne on the table, along with a carton of cigarettes, and the usual cosmetic products for my wife."

After that, he would head over to Swiss drug maker Ciba-Geigy, now part of Novartis. The doctor, an orthopedist identified by the code name "Jörg," says that he was taken "behind the scenes" and treated "very smoothly." At the booth for Frankfurt-based pharmaceutical industry supplier Degussa (now part of Evonik Industries), a representative made an effort to set things right with the physician when he learned that gifts sent for his children hadn’t yet arrived. The rep promised they would be sent as a "direct package shipment."

The physician then proceeded to booths operated by Bayer, along with a British, an American and a Swiss company. After a few hours, "Jörg," then a department head in a hospital in Schwedt, in the state of Brandenburg, felt pleasantly tipsy. "By noon, I was almost drunk, and my head was filled with dirty stories about women that were not exactly professional."

Pharmaceutical companies from West Germany and other Western countries exercised little restraint when they wanted to test new drugs on the other side of the Berlin Wall. They paid the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) millions for extensive clinical trials, in which at least 50,000 East German citizens served as subjects, often unknowingly.

It has now emerged that these envoys from the West were running a corrupt system to recruit East German doctors for their controversial drug trials. Companies like Bayer and Sandoz also employed lobbyists to develop high-level contacts in the GDR.

Everyone Wins, Except for the Patient

It was a mutually beneficial arrangement. The companies gained access to clinical trial results at a low cost, while their partners in the East received cash, gifts and medical technology for their hospitals. According to a Stasi report, in 1981 alone, the companies sent East German researchers about 250 invitations for what were usually lavishly funded trips to the West. "To promote their commercial interests," the Stasi files read, the companies took advantage of "opportunities involving corruption and bribery."

The patients, however, were treated with far less consideration. They were neither compensated nor thoroughly informed about what would be done to their bodies, say victims today. Survivors report that they have yet to receive compensation for the harm they suffered.

[...]

Read the full article at: spiegel.de




Related Articles
How Big Pharma recycles old drugs—even bad ones
The drugs don’t work: a modern medical scandal
Big Pharma’s shame: emerging markets bribery
Seven Diseases Big Pharma Hopes You Get
Why Big Pharma (and the Public) Doesn’t Want an Addiction Vaccine


Latest News from our Front Page

Estonia must accept African & Middle Eastern immigrants says politician
2015-05-22 3:06
Kalle Laanet, an Estonian politician, spoke at the International Migration Forum held in Tallinn. He told the audience that the question is not: Should Estonia take the African and the Middle Eastern immigrants (who illegally entered Southern Europe)? He said the question is: How will Estonia take the immigrants? “Today the issue is not whether Estonia should receive the refugees coming to ...
Rescuing Palmyra: History's lesson in how to save artefacts
2015-05-21 22:49
With Islamic State militants now inside the historic town of Palmyra in Syria, the question, inevitably, is whether they will destroy the ancient ruins. As IS continues to sweep through parts of Iraq and Syria, damage to centuries-old artefacts - because IS sees statues and shrines as idolatrous - is plentiful. But history has shown that, when culturally important sites are under ...
Saudi Arabia Wants to Convert Sweden to Islam
2015-05-21 20:38
Aje Carlbom is an Associate Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Malmö Since the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has actively spread its interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism or Salafism, worldwide. It is the most literal version of Islam and affects many young Muslims, who regard society as a place to Islamize, writes social anthropologist Aje Carlbom. Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström was ...
Professor: If You Read To Your Kids, You're 'Unfairly Disadvantaging' Others
2015-05-21 18:22
Bedtime-story privilege? According to a professor at the University of Warwick in England, parents who read to their kids should be thinking about how they're "unfairly disadvantaging other people's children" by doing so. In an interview with ABC Radio last week, philosopher and professor Adam Swift said that since "bedtime stories activities . . . do indeed foster and produce . . ...
If You Read About Conspiracies You're Just Like Osama Bin Laden Apparently
2015-05-21 3:46
At its heart, the story of Osama bin Laden's time at his house in Abbottabad is surreal. The American image of bin Laden - leering at us from under his head wrap as he plots and schemes - is undermined by the mundane realities of his life. The guy was responsible for murdering thousands of Americans and orchestrating a global ...
More News »