Medical trials that failed miserably

By: Grant King, MedicalSearch Writer
13 September, 2016

At Industracom we tend to focus on positive topics and insights to advance industry and help your business grow.

However, once in a while an essentially negative subject can still provide useful advice, even if that advice is 'what not to do.' Here are a few unfortunate occasions where medical trials went horribly wrong.

Dan Markinson and the anti-psychotic drug trial

This ill-fated trial took place in the US in 2004. The drug being trialled was an anti-psychotic called Seroquel and the University of Minnesota's Centre for Bioethics was the institution undertaking the trials. Among the participants was a mentally ill man named Dan Markinson who was suffering from serious delusions, the most alarming of which was that a secret group was calling him to kill people. This new drug trial was meant to help him. Instead six months into the trial he stabbed himself to death. While the university was cleared of any wrongdoing, doubts persist, particularly as it remains unclear if Markinson was in any fit state to consent to the trial in the first place. Worse, it appears that suicidal warning signs may have been ignored. 

Parexel and the 'Elephant Man' drug trial

This is the sad case of a drug tested before a safe test dose had been adequately ascertained. Indeed a drug that, once that dose had been found, should have been tested on one person at a time. It wasn't. The drug in question was TGN1412, a trial medication to treat such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and leukaemia. The company in question was Parexel, a private company based in the US. Literally within hours of the clinical trial starting in 2006, six previously healthy men were admitted to intensive care suffering from organ failure. Some of the men's heads swelled up ala Joseph Merrick, the 19th Century Elephant Man, they subsequently lost fingers and toes, and were told they may develop cancers or auto-immune diseases as a direct result of taking the drug.  While Parexel claimed to have followed all regulatory, clinical and medical guidelines, a report into the trial found they had not been clear on a safe starting dose for the trial and one person should have been tested at a time.