Photo Gallery Secret Drugs Trials in East Germany

East Germany sold patients as unwitting guinea pigs in drug trials conducted on behalf of Western pharmaceutical companies, according to a TV documentary. Journalists have spoken to former patients and their relatives and unearthed official documents proving secret collusion between East and West.
1 / 8

Berlin's Charité hospital in eastern Berlin. In the 1980s, the cash-strapped East German government effectively sold thousands of patients as unwitting guinea pigs for drugs trials commissioned by Western firms.

Foto: Kießling
2 / 8

The patients appear not to have known that they were helping the state to earn hard currency. Patients died in the course of the trials. A German TV documentary that aired on Monday has unearthed original documents on the test arrangements.

Foto: Bundesarchiv/ DQ 105-66
3 / 8

Gerhard Lehrer, who suffered a heart attack in early 1989, was given these pills to take. The doctor praised the red-and-white capsules when her husband was taken to hospital. "You can only get them with me," he said. Three weeks after being discharged from hospital, Lehrer felt steadily worse and was told to stop taking the pills and hand them back. He disobeyed and kept them. He died a year later.

Foto: MDR/ NEO productions
4 / 8

Gerhard Lehrer and his wife Anneliese. When she saw a television documentary about risky drug tests in East German clinics, she rang up broadcaster MDR. The pharmaceutical laboratory of Leipzig University analyzed the capsules and found that the drugs contained no active ingredient. The result showed that Gerhard Lehrer had been used as a guinea pig in a drug test, as part of a group of patients given a placebo. A man with serious heart diseased was denied proper treatment.

5 / 8

"We weren't just stupid East Germans," says Hubert Bruchmüller (L). The pensioner suffered heart problems when he was 30. He was sent to the district hospital of Lostau near Magdeburg, one of the country's few clinics specializing in his disorder.

Foto: MDR/ NEO Productions
6 / 8

Documents show that Bruchmüller was used as a guinea pig to test the drug Spirapil made by Western drugs firm Sandoz. During his time in the hospital he saw a man in the bed next to him have a heart attak. "I never saw him again," he says. By December 1989, six of 17 tested patients had died in Lostau. Then the doctors were stopped.

Foto: Mdr/ Neo Productions
7 / 8

The secret tests resulted in part from a chronic shortage of drugs in East Germany during the 1980s. "There were pharmacies that couldn't supply 20 percent of drugs at certain times," said Christoph Friedrich, a historian at Marburg University. "And that of course continued in the clinics."

Foto: MDR/ NEO productions
8 / 8

Here, one of the few people who was willing to speak about the testing on camera, Hans-Georg Wolters, a doctor and former West German health ministry official. He would later become head of international research at pharmaceutical company Hoechst.

Foto: MDR/ NEO productions
Die Wiedergabe wurde unterbrochen.