Thousands of tests are run on animals each year with the intention of curing diseases or helping treat certain conditions. But what happens when these tests are run on humans? Equally cruel, though the objective of these clinical trials are full of hope, some of their results end up being devastating for volunteers. They might attract human guinea pigs for the “easy” money offered, but since the FDA does not always back some of these experiments, death or severe injuries might be a huge component to these dangerous tests. Here are a few human clinical trials gone horribly wrong.
1. BUT FIRST… WHAT ARE CLINICAL TRIALS EXACTLY?
Most people are in it for the money and the hopeful promise of a cure. That’s because clinical trials are research studies that explore if a medical strategy, drug, treatment or device are actually effective on humans. Doctors test them out on certain individuals or groups of people, and the data they produce might help healthcare decision-making. These trials are not always safe, though. Some use unknown procedures or drugs that have not yet been approved by the FDA and might cause health complications or even death.
2. SHORT-HANDED TESTS
A sedative marketed as safe during the ’50s, Thalidomine was prescribed to pregnant women for morning sickness by obstetrician Dr. William McBride. By the ’60s, however, he started to discover unknown collateral damage: this drug would cause severe birth defects in babies, like shortened, absent or flipper-like limbs. As you can imagine, it was banned within a year.
3. NOT-SO-IMMUNE SYSTEM
To voluntarily participate in improving cancer treatments in London’s Northwick Park hospital, eight men underwent manipulations in their immune systems. The drug they had to take, known as TGN1412, left them in pure agony: their organs started to fail and some spent a lot of time in the hospital. The worst cases ended up with amputation of feet and fingers falling off.
4. SARIN AT WORK
What he thought was a test to help cure the common cold, ended up being his death sentence. Airman Ronald Maddison was exposed to a sarin nerve gas test and, less than 45 minutes later, complications—including deafness, lack of air and convulsions—lead to his unfortunate passing.
5. AN EYE FOR AN EYE
Stem-cell therapy consists in the use of stem cells to treat or prevent a disease or condition. But that wasn’t the case of three Florida patients who underwent this procedure. They paid around $5000 to fix their temporal vision loss, but after stem cells were injected in both their eyes, their blindness became permanent.
Nigeria suffered its worst meningitis epidemic in 1996, leaving 5 children dead after being given an experimental antibiotic known as Trovan and 5 other children died as a result of being given Ceftriaxone. Legal action was taken against the drug’s creator and the children’s families were compensated financially.
7. JESSE-TICALLY MODIFIED
Like many other kids, 18-year-old Jesse Gelsinger learned to live with a disease. His was called OTC—short for…Google it! You won’t remember anyways. One day, he volunteered for a clinical trial aimed at curing his condition, but the injection of an adenoviral vector caused him an immune response that ended his life.
8. BRAIN ISSUE
A hospital in northwestern France run a drug trial to investigate a possible treatment for mood, anxiety, and motor problems related to neurodegenerative diseases. Six men participated, but the drug caused irreversible brain damage on some, and death on one of the volunteers.
9. CAN YOU KILL ME NOW?
Professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Stephen Olson convinced a young psychotic man, called Dan Markingson, into participating in a study of antipsychotic drugs for patients like him. The patient’s voluntary enrollment deteriorated his condition, making him commit suicide after 5 months of treatment.
10. TRIAL AND ERROR
A biopharmaceutical company known as Juno Therapeutics conducted a clinical treatment trial on two cancer patients, causing nothing but their deaths in 2016. The company claimed the deaths were not solely its fault and that it was rather a confluence of factors, but the FDA suspended the trials of these treatments.