‘Elephant Man’ Drugs Trial Has Disturbing Effects On Human Guinea Pigs


It has been eleven years since the catastrophic drug trial that left six healthy young men fighting for their lives as their bodies swelled and they became the ‘Elephant Men’.

The trials for the leukaemia treatment, which had been successfully tested on monkeys, were supposed to be routine with short-term side effects in exchange for £2,000.

The experimental drug, known as TGN1412, caused one of the most infamous medical emergencies in Britain within one hour of it being administered.


The human guinea pigs, who were left screaming in pain, writhing around with their bodies swelling and with one having to undergo amputation, have told the story of their trauma.

Fortunately medics succeeded in saving the men, all but one of whom were released from hospital within a month.

The youngest, Ryan Wilson (then 21), had to spend four months in hospital after his heart, liver, and kidneys began to fail.

A BBC documentary retells the story of the medical catastrophe, the volunteers involved, and the aftermath of the March 13, 2006 disaster.

Here’s a clip from the documentary…

Though the patients were treated, it is likely that the volunteers will have suffered life changing side effects which could stay with them forever.

One participant said:

I thought I was doing something good for science, but in the end it was the worst thing I could ever have done.

There were two other participants who were given a placebo and so were not affected by the harrowing side effects.

The trials, which were described as a ‘get-rich-quick-scheme’ by one participant, took place at a private unit it London’s Northwick Park Hospital.

BBC - Raste Khan

Raste Khan, who was given one of the placebos, described the scene:

It was all manic, everything was happening all at once.

They were vomiting, they were screaming in pain, people were fainting, they couldn’t control their bowels… it was like a horror movie.

The documentary features personal testimonies from the doctors, volunteers, and investigators.

The programme airs on BBC 2 tonight at 9pm.