New scandal in the Romanian health sector: Psychiatrists accused of using patients as guinea pigs
By Irina Popescu
June 1, 2016

Psychiatrist Delia Podea

Psychiatrist Delia Podea

The Romanian authorities discover new problems in the local health sector each day. After the huge scandal around the diluted disinfectants used din hospitals for years and the case in which 77 oncologists have been charged with bribery, the prosecutors now investigate dozens of psychiatrists who allegedly used patients as guinea pigs.

More than 250 patients admitted to hospitals and medical centers from nearly half of the country allegedly have become victims of the psychiatrist who were supposed to treat them, reports local Digi24. The prosecutors searched 31 hospitals, some of them located in Bucharest, as well as the National Drug Agency.

The doctors seem to have found several ways to use their patients as guinea pigs in medical trials. For example, they were forging the patients’ diagnosis, medical records, and signatures to be able to give them the tested product.

Hospital managers claimed they didn’t know what their employees were doing.

Dumitru Popescu, the general director of the Psychiatry Hospital in Sapoca, Buzau county, said: “They might have private practices they use to make these tests, this couldn’t have been possible in the hospital.”

It’s not clear how many patients have been used in these illegal experiments, as the doctors kept registering patients to cash in the fees.

The drug tests were ordered by large foreign pharmaceutical companies and were conducted in several countries. However, so far, irregularities were found only in Romania, reports local Digi24.

The local authorities currently check five pharmaceutical companies as well as doctors and intermediaries. The companies allegedly paid between EUR 80,000 and EUR 100,000 for a clinical trial, and the money was going to one doctor alone, the one who was coordinating the project. Investigators say that such trials have been conducted in almost all major hospitals in the country.

The prosecutors picked up documents from the National Drug Agency, the institution that approves the trials.

They’ve also taken documents from the Campulung Moldovenesc Psychiatry Hospital, some of them related to a clinical trial conducted by the hospital for a large company, according to hospital manager Lucian Paziuc, cited by local Mediafax. Thus, the hospital in Campulung Moldovenesc was one of the medical centers included in a 19-week trial carried out last year.

The prosecutors also started making arrests in this case. Delia Podea, a psychiatrist at the Arad County Hospital, was detained for 24 hours for bribery, forgery, and abuse of office, according to local Mediafax. She might be placed under preventive arrest if the court will admit the prosecutors’ request.

The authorities accuse Podea of asking and receiving money from people interested in appearing as being admitted to the psychiatry unit, which would have helped them prepare the file they needed to retire for medical reasons. Most of these people were never actually admitted to the hospital, as they weren’t suffering from any illness.

Moreover, in some cases, the doctor was asking people also to participate in clinical trials if they wanted to appear as being admitted to the hospital. This way, Podea was receiving even more money, as she was being paid based on how many patients were enrolled in the trial.