• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Western firms tested drugs on East Germans in Cold War
Photo: DPA

Western firms tested drugs on East Germans in Cold War

The Local · 15 Mar 2016, 16:40

Published: 15 Mar 2016 16:40 GMT+01:00

The research by the Institute of Medical History and Ethics in Berlin found that between 1961 and 1989, at least 900 medical experiments took place in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) using drugs developed by Western pharmaceutical firms.

The long-awaited report on a scheme designed to provide hard currency to the cash-strapped regime confirmed some allegations leveled in a 2013 article by news magazine Der Spiegel, albeit on a much smaller scale than the magazine reported.

Tests were carried out in cooperation with the communist government of the GDR and its feared Stasi secret police.

And it wasn’t just West German companies that were indulging in this dubious practice. American, British and French companies also carried out these experiments, the report found.

"The GDR authorities gave their country’s health system over to Western companies and a research laboratory, in order to finance their highly indebted planned economy,” the researchers said.

The report is also highly critical of the Western companies, saying that they abused the fact that the GDR was a dictatorship with low accountability for their own ends.

"The decisive competitive advantage for the Western companies was not the low costs, but the considerable time and efficiency bonus which the dictatorial GDR regime could offer," the report found.

The tests were carried out for 75 companies from 16 countries, mainly from West Germany but also Switzerland, France, the United States and Britain. Some of the biggest names in the industry were involved including Bayer, Pfizer and Roche.

'No systematic breaches'

Nevertheless, the tests do seem to have been carried out according to the international standards of the time, even if these do not correspond to 21st century standards.

"What appears dubious to us today was not specific to the GDR, even though some of it appears ethically dubious now," Volker Hess, head of the research group said.

“We could not find evidence of systematic breaches [of international ethical codes] in the studies carried out in the GDR,” he added

The researchers were not able to discover, though, whether the participants always took part willingly.

“There is only fragmentary information about how the tests were explained from interviews between patients and doctors,” Hess said.

Story continues below…

It seems that some companies did take advantage of a difference in standards between East and West, though.

Between 1987 and 1989, some patients in a test run by the firm Hochst AG received a medication that was already on the market in the West, while a control group was given a less effective East German medication.

The experiment was aimed at measuring the efficiency of the new medication and wouldn’t have been possible in the west where it was not possible to withhold a medication from a patient which was already on the market, Die Welt reports.

With AFP

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany says 'won't let anyone take Europe from us'
Steinmeier called the European Union “a successful project of peace and stability”. Photo: DPA

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that the EU would weather the shock of the British vote to leave the union as he convened crisis talks.

Brexit vote
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
A sign in Berlin's tech giant and startup-building company Rocket Internet. Photo: DPA.

London is currently thought of as the main hub for startups in Europe, but that will all turn around when the UK leaves the EU, tech industry experts say.

Brexit vote - Analysis
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
British Leave campaigners celebrate Brexit result. Photo: DPA

Britain leaving the EU means trouble ahead for Germany - and its hardest task will be convincing the Brits to drop a self-defeating ideology, a leading foreign policy expert told The Local.

How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Photo: DPA.

Considering a change of passport after the UK's vote to ditch the EU? Here’s how to do it.

Germany makes fracking verboten
A sign in North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA.

German lawmakers approved a law that essentially bans fracking, ending years of dispute over the controversial technology to release oil and gas locked deep underground.

Brexit vote
German far right 'cries for joy' after UK votes to leave EU
Left to right: AfD's Beatrix von Storch and Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

The far-right AfD party called for a "new Europe" and the resignation of the EU's top two politicians in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Brexit vote
Merkel: Brexit has cut into European unity
Angela Merkel at a press conference after the Brexit vote on Friday. Photo: DPA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday that the UK's decision to leave the EU has created a "cut in Europe" and the project of European unity.

Couple copulating on bridge shut down Autobahn
Kaiserlei Bridge in Frankfurt. Photo: Dontworry / Wikimedia Commons.

It was a highly unusual choice of location for a romantic rendezvous, police in Frankfurt point out.

Brexit vote
Germany: Brexit vote is a 'sad day for Europe'
A British flag along with other flags of European Union member countries flies in front of the European Council building in Strasbourg, France. Photo: EPA.

Top German leaders declared that it was a "sad day for Europe" after British voters opted to leave the European Union.

Viernheim hostage-taker wasn't carrying lethal weapon
A police officer stands guard in front of the cinema in Viernheim. Photo: DPA

The 19-year-old German man who took over a dozen people hostage in a cinema in western Germany on Thursday was carrying replica weapons, prosecutors have confirmed.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
US expats: Taxes are due June 15th
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Gallery
7 photos which show the aftermath of Bavaria's Autobahn bridge collapse
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Sport
How to sound like an expert on German football this summer
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
Culture
Five sure-fire ways to impress Germans with your manners
Features
6 reasons Germany's summer is unbeatable for thrill-seekers
National
The future belongs to these 10 German regions
Society
How pictures of footballers on chocolates made Pegida really mad
Health
New father's tragic herpes warning touches 1000s online
National
Bayer's Monsanto takeover would be 'diabolical': environmentalists
7,910
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd