East Germany's secret police sold citizens to western pharmaceutical companies to use as human guinea pigs in drug trials
•Tens of thousands tested with experimental drugs not approved in the West
•One study of a drug for heart conditions saw six out of 17 patients die
•Sinister practice exposed in disturbing new Germany documentary
By Allan Hall In Berlin
PUBLISHED: 08:56 EST, 4 December 2012 | UPDATED: 12:03 EST, 4 December 2012
Former Communist East Germany secretly sold its citizens to western pharmaceutical companies to use as human guinea pigs in drug trials.
Tens of thousands of sick people in the former German Democratic Republic were treated with medicines not approved in the West to see how effective they were.
Details of the top secret project have been unearthed in the files of the Stasi secret police in Berlin. The communist regime profited with millions in hard currency
The bridge between East Germany and West Berlin pictured in the early 1960s. Recently opened files show how Stasi officials secretly sold citizens to western pharmaceutical companies to use as human guinea pigs
But the human cost was high with dozens killed through side effects of drugs which had bypassed the normally stringent testing procedures demanded by western democracies.
Even worse, some patients received placebos - pills that did nothing at all - to gauge how they responded in comparison to others who were given proper medication.
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The practice was exposed by journalists Stefan Hoge and Carsten Opitz and screened this week in Germany in a disturbing documentary entitled 'Test and Dead'.
The Stasi files - miles and miles of yellowing paperwork which the hated secret police of East Germany failed to destroy when the country imploded in 1989 - revealed details of how it became one of the most important testing arenas for western drug companies.
The conspiracy involved the state, doctors and western big pharma firms.
GDR leaders were happy to implement the programme in a land which excelled only in shortages.
'There were pharmacies which could no longer provide 20 percent of needed drugs,' said pharmaceutical historian Christoph Friedrich from the University of Marburg. 'And that shortage extended to hospitals.
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