PARIS, France - One man is dead and five others have been hospitalized after taking part in a drug trial for a new painkiller based on a compound similar to marijuana.
In all, 90 individuals have taken part in the drug trial, taking some dosage of the drug, which is aimed at alleviating mood and anxiety issues, as well as movement coordination disorders linked to neurological issues.
French prosecutors have taken little time since the volunteer’s death to launch a manslaughter investigation into the case. The unusual circumstances surrounding the case have shined a spotlight on the practice of testing new drugs on paid, healthy, human volunteers.
The deceased man was among six male volunteers between the ages of 28-49 hospitalized after volunteering to take the drug. French health authorities have said three of the hospitalized men are facing possible brain damage.
The Portuguese pharmaceutical company testing the drug, Bial, said in a statement that it's working with health authorities to determine what caused "this tragic and unfortunate situation."
The drug in question is based on a natural brain compound similar to the active ingredient in cannabis. As part of the Phase 1 trial, the compound was given orally to healthy, paid volunteers by Biotrial, a drug evaluation company testing on behalf of Bial.
Testing had already been carried out on animals, including chimpanzees, starting last summer.
All trials on the drug have been suspended and all volunteers who have taken part in the trial have been called back.