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Patients Misused as Guinea Pigs

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Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, 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 the East and West.

It was as though Gerhard Lehrer suspected that something was amiss. He was being treated in an East German hospital in Dresden after suffering a heart attack in May 1989, and he decided not to hand back the box of drugs he had been given.

Three weeks after he was discharged, he was feeling increasingly ill. The clinic told him to stop taking the mystery drug immediately and to return all the pills he had left. But Lehrer disobeyed. "Keep hold of them, you may need them one day," he told his wife. He died a year later.

His widow Anneliese Lehrer kept the red packet. It was strange, she recalls, how the doctor praised the red-and-white capsules when her husband was taken to the hospital. "You can only get them with me," he said. When she later saw a television documentary about risky drug tests in East German clinics, she rang up broadcaster MDR.

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