Dispatches: The Drug Trial That Went Wrong

Posted in: Drugs, Health

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For five months Brian Deer has followed the personal story of Ryan Wilson, who nearly died in the trial. When Ryan was brought out of a two-and-a-half week coma he was told he had suffered irreparable damage to his hands and feet during his fight for life. With exclusive access to the 20-year-old trainee plumber, Dispatches captures the events of that day and the impact it has had on Ryan and those closest to him.

His mother Marion Flanagan said: “He had swollen up something dreadful, his whole body, he looked very, very bad; I literally thought my son was not going to pull through.” But Ryan is philosophical about his position: “You can cry about things and I’m not acting like no big hard man, cos I’m not yeah, I’m far from it, but when you’re dealt a blow like this you either get up, and get on with it… or you just sit around and mope.”

Deer is also with Ryan and his family as he returns to hospital to have his toes surgically removed. The Government’s medicines watchdog said that the incident was the result of “an unpredicted biological action” but Deer digs deeper.

He obtains confidential papers relating to the development of the drug, the way the trial was conducted and the initial treatment Ryan received. He travels to Germany and the US to track down and confront those responsible for the trial. He pieces together an understanding of what went wrong and asks, as the search for new drugs moves away from chemistry towards biotechnology, whether what happened to Ryan Wilson is a warning for us all?

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