Hospital to investigate East German medical trials

BERLIN (AP) - Berlin's renowned Charite hospital says it plans to investigate allegations that patients in East Germany were used as unwitting guinea pigs in medical trials.

Claims that Western drug companies paid the communist regime to conduct such tests first surfaced shortly after German reunification in 1990.

But German weekly Der Spiegel reported this week that previously unpublished documents showed at least 50,000 patients were involved in more than 600 trials.

It reported that drugs were even tested on premature babies, comatose alcoholics and mental patients unable to give informed consent.

Charite spokeswoman Manuela Zingl said on Monday the hospital has ordered the customary shredding of old patient files be stopped.

Researchers are now seeking funds to conduct a proper investigation into whether laws and ethical guidelines of the time were followed.

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