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France Launches Probe Into Deadly Drug Trial

  • Lisa Bryant

A logo is seen on a glass sign in front of the entrance of the Biotrial laboratory building in Rennes, France, Jan. 15, 2016.

A logo is seen on a glass sign in front of the entrance of the Biotrial laboratory building in Rennes, France, Jan. 15, 2016.

The French government is launching an inquiry into a drug trial of an experimental medication that has left one person brain dead and five hospitalized in serious condition.

Health Minister Marisol Touraine says what happened is unprecedented.

Touraine says six men ages 28-49 who were participating in the drug trial have been hospitalized since Sunday. One was declared brain dead and the others remained hospitalized, with all showing the same type of neurological symptoms.

Touraine spoke at a news conference in the northwestern city of Rennes, where the trial had been taking place. A research company called Biotrial had been testing the drug manufactured by a Portuguese company, which is meant to help with anxiety and other mood disorders.

In a statement, Biotrial said there were "serious adverse effects," but the trial had been fully compliant with international regulations.

The health minister dismissed early reports that the drug contained cannabis. She said the government has launched two inquiries into the trial, separate from the judicial process. She said the six men hospitalized had taken the drug regularly, in high doses.

All trials of the drug are now suspended, and volunteers participating in the study have been called back. Although 128 people volunteered for the trial, only 90 of them were given the drug, with the rest given a placebo.

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