Future looks bleak for victims of 'elephant man' drug trial

The men who suffered horrendous reactions during a drug trial in the UK could well be facing developing cancer and other fatal diseases as a result of being poisoned in the test, and are at risk of an early death.

The six healthy men aged 19 to 40 had been paid £2,000 each for volunteering to take part in a trial of a new drug TGN1412 at Northwick Park hospital, northwest London, last March.

They became seriously ill and developed severe reactions shortly after taking the drug, including fever, swelling and vomiting and suffered heart, liver and kidney failure.

The drug made by TeGenero, a German firm and was originally being developed as a treatment for immune disorders such as leukaemia, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Although it was given in a dose 500 times lower than previously used on monkeys without ill effects, the drug triggered a life-threatening immune response in the volunteers and left them fighting for their lives.

According to a medical assessment by immunologist Professor Richard Powell the catastrophic drugs trial has left four of the young men at a high risk of developing incurable auto-immune diseases.

One of the men Nav Modi, 24, whose bloated face and swollen chest led to the nickname "Elephant Man", does not know how long he will live as he has already been told he is showing "definite early signs" of lymphatic cancer.

The men had been told by doctors they would not suffer any life-threatening illnesses.

Modi's Lawyer, Martyn Day, of Leigh Day solicitors, who is acting for Modi and three of the victims is considering legal action against Parexel, the firm that ran the trial and he believes they are eligible for up to £5m in damages.

Parexel denies responsibility for the outcome of the trial.

Experts have voiced concern that the disasterous trial will make it even more difficult to recruit volunteers to take part in drug trials, thus impeding the development of new treatments.

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