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More unauthorised tests uncovered in psychiatric clinics

From the 1950s to the 1970s tests with unauthorised drugs were carried out in all university psychiatric clinics in Switzerland. Sometimes, the tests were even done without the patients' permission. All over Switzerland 4,200 patients were affected in total (SRF/SDA/

The public were made aware some years ago that tests with unauthorised drugs were carried out at the Universities of Zurich and Basel. Documents now show that clinics in other Swiss cities, such as Lausanne, Geneva and Bern, also experimented with test compounds, sometimes resulting in severe side effects. This is according to investigations by the ‘Schweiz Aktuell’ programme from Swiss Public Television, SRF.

In a similar case, in the 1970s the psychiatric clinic in Wil, St Gallen treated 60 patients with unauthorised drugs. Only in 1980 did canton St Gallen put extensive patient rights into the law. Previously, a patient’s agreement was required for operations, but not for drug subscriptions. 

The clinic claims that they and the patients were aware of new substances being tested in studies. There is also said to have been internal investigation into whether the involved patients actually gave their agreement. However the archives contain no documentation on the studies. It’s believed that the doctor in charge at the time took the documents along with him when leaving the clinic in 1985.

It’s also estimated that the clinic of St Urban in Lucerne treated over 200 patients with unauthorised drugs in the 1950s and 60s. The drugs were provided by the Basel pharmaceutical industry for free. In return, the pharmaceutical companies were given access to the studies, historian Urs Germann told Swiss Public Television, SRF. In case of the the tranquilliser Taracan, so Germann says, sometimes the treatment was even forced on the patients.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR