For the drug companies, the government gave them a chance to evade strict controls on tests that were coming into force in western Europe, The Local.de reported. The testing was documented in a report, "Tests und Tote" or "Tests and the Dead," aired Monday on the German state broadcaster ARD.
Hoechst AG and Sandoz, two West German companies, paid East Germany millions of deutschmarks for providing test subjects, the broadcast said. The patients involved were not told they would be getting untested medication or a placebo.
Gerhard Lehrer died in a Dresden hospital where he was being treated for a heart attack in 1989, Der Spiegel reported. His wife says his doctor told him he was being given an effective, hard-to-get drug, but he became suspicious and told her before he died to keep some of the medication.
When she had the pills tested, she learned her husband had received a placebo. ARD investigators learned Lehrer was part of a study for Ramipril, a drug designed to bring down blood pressure, that was being tested by Hoechst.
Hoechst has since been merged into the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis, which cooperated with ARD.
The number of drug studies jumped from 20 in 1982, the report said, to 165 in 1988. But they stopped soon after when the East German regime collapsed and Germany was reunified.