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Drug trials in Münsterlingen: how senior physician "Daddy Long Leg" used his patients as guinea pigs

Vue du bâtiment de la clinique psychiatrique, de Münsterlingen, où les tests de dépistage de drogues effectués sur les patients par le psychiatre Roland Kuhn dans les années 1950 auraient été plus poussés que prévu. | Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller)

Basel-based pharmaceutical companies have been testing unapproved medicines on thousands of people in Switzerland for three decades. The clinic in Münsterlingen, Thurgau, was “more than helpful!” Senior physician Roland Kuhn was madly excited about the trials.

Why it matters. April 1954 – a shipment of the preparation G 22150 arrives at the Psychiatric Clinic Münsterlingen. It marks the beginning of a long series of trials in the clinic at the idyllic location of Lake Constance. Senior physician Roland Kuhn tests new, unapproved substances for their psychopharmacological effects. Kuhn collaborates with Basel-based pharmaceutical companies. He reacted cautiously to Geigy's test requests at the beginning: “I don't want to take on a job that I can't perform with the necessary thoroughness.” But all inhibitions vanished in no time. Kuhn was overcome by a “real experimental fever”, as can be read in the study “Münsterlingen test case” presented on Monday.

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