Drug-test victim's 'hell'


Joseph Merrick, "The Elephant Man", born in Leicester in 1862, became a circus freak in Victorian England.

SHATTERED Nav Modi last night told of the searing pain in his head as a disastrous drug trial left him like an “Elephant Man”.

The 24-year-old student said it felt like “a truck had been parked on my head” as it ballooned to twice its normal size.

Speaking for the first time about the nightmare test that left him and five other men fighting for life, he told The Sun how he was in pain soon after being injected with an anti-inflammatory chemical in tests conducted by trials firm Parexel.

He said: “An hour after the drug entered my body I was suddenly gripped by pain I can barely begin to describe.

“I felt my head swelling up like an elephant’s — I thought my eyeballs were going to pop out.”

Clutching his head in both hands, Nav fought back his emotions as he went on: “The pain seared from the core of my head and I felt as if it would go bang and explode.

“I screamed out, ‘Please doctor, help me! Help me!' but he told me to lie down — then came back with a single paracetamol tablet.

“I’d never experienced pain like this and vomited up the tablet within minutes of taking it.

“Then somehow the pain got even worse with the pressure in my head so intense it was like a truck had been parked on it.

“It felt like a terrible nightmare. I was aware of nothing around me — just the pressure growing stronger and stronger in my skull.

“The nurses tried to calm me but suddenly the pain shot from my head to my spine — as though the truck had been moved to my back.

“This felt even worse than before and I was conscious of bucking and writhing in the bed as they tried to get an oxygen mask on me.

“I started to think that these people were killing me and that I was going to die in this terrible place.

“As the mask was put on my face I felt that I couldn’t breathe and begged the doctors, ‘Please, please let me out of here. I don’t want the money anymore — I just want to be free.’

“The agony didn’t end until I felt a needle go into my left arm with what must have been a sedative.

“Moments later I fell unconscious — but it was only the start of the most terrifying hours of my life.”

Nav was fit and healthy before he took part in the trial — to earn £2,000 to pay for a new laptop.

He said scientists told him before the test at North-West London’s Northwick Park Hospital that he would not be put at any risk.

The TGN1412 drug developed by German firm Te Genero had already been trialed on two monkeys which suffered no ill effects.

And the boffins insisted the six men taking part would be given just 1/500th of the amount of the drug given to the animals.

Nav — who had taken part in two previous Parexel trials at Northwick Park without serious side effects — said: “We were assured we would be safe — I trusted Parexel with my life.

“But now I know I would be dead if I had been left in their care and the doctors and nurses had not been on hand to save me.

“They treated us no better than the animals in cages in their laboratories.

“When we were screened, we were told the worst thing I would suffer would be headaches and a little nausea.

“But I wound up in intensive care fighting for life.” Nav told how he woke feeling numb and bloated after being sedated and resumed his desperate pleading for help from nursing staff.

He said: “I felt terribly restless again, despite the drugs they had pumped into me, and started to feel as I was suffocating in my oxygen mask.

“I started to complain to the nurse about the discomfort — then she lay her cards on the table with words that shocked me to the core.

“She said simply, ‘Mr Modi, do you realise that you are in a situation where you are very, very seriously ill. If you do not co-operate with us fully you may DIE.’

“Despite the terrible pain I had suffered, I somehow hadn’t allowed myself to think that the drugs I had been given might kill me. I was so stunned I never complained again from that moment — I knew I had to pull myself together if I was going to live.

“I lay there terrified, cursing myself for putting myself in a situation where I was going to die for £2,000 I was never going to have a chance to spend.”

Nav’s terror deepened when he was moved with the five other drug victims to intensive care in the early hours of the day after the trial.

Drugged and slipping in and out of consciousness, he was too weak to speak as he felt medical tubes, wires and monitoring equipment being plumbed into his tortured body. At 10am the next day — 26 hours after he was given the drug — he was allowed a visit from his 22-year-old girlfriend Divya Vegda.

She collapsed in shock and burst into tears the moment she saw his hideously bloated frame.

Nav said: “I had no idea how I looked — I’d been drugged and had been too out of it to ask for a mirror.

“But when Divya saw me in hospital for the first time, her shocked reaction spoke volumes.

“She reeled backwards in shock unable to speak and just burst into floods of tears.

“A nurse had to comfort her before she could come back but she could barely speak to me and tears were still running down my face as she sat at my bedside.

“She’s told me since that — without exaggeration — my head had swelled up to at least twice its normal size, just like the Elephant Man in the movie.

“My whole body — limbs, torso, everything — was puffed up and swollen beyond recognition and I had tubes and wires going into my neck, legs and arms.

“Looking back I’m glad I didn’t realise how dreadful I looked because that might have pushed me over the edge.

“Divya told me later that she was so appalled by the sight of me she couldn’t face eating for two days after her visit. I must have looked like something out of a horror movie.”

Nav told how the intensity of the pain slowly began to fade as he was pumped full of steroid drugs to ease the swelling.

He was the first of the drug disaster guinea pigs to be allowed out of intensive care.

But he spent four harrowing days lying opposite volunteers Mohamed “Nino” El Hady Abdallah, 28, and near to Ryan Wilson, 21 — who was the worst affected and was last night still in intensive care.

Nav said: “I’d chatted to Mohamed in the hours before we were given the drugs and we got on really well.

“He was a big burly, friendly guy without a care in the world and clearly wasn’t at all worried about the tests. To see him reduced to a physical wreck lying in intensive care was awful.

“I caught glimpses of him through the curtains around our beds from time to time.

“It brought home to me the power of even a tiny amount of the drug Parexel had been willing to try out on us.

“How could they have been so careless with our lives?"

Nav, of Forest Gate, East London, was ushered out of intensive care five days after the trial and had no contact with any other testers.

He was consumed by so much pain that he was not fully aware of their torment as they writhed on the beds like him in the Parexel test ward at the hospital.

The Indian-born student had taken part in previous Parexel trials last year for an inhaled asthma drug — which had no side effects and earned him £1,920 — and for malaria tablets, which netted him £2,000 but caused diarrhoea and temporary hair loss.

Nav, who can still barely climb a flight of stairs, said: “Parexel’s medics were very convincing when they assured me that the side effects I suffered weren’t due to the drugs.

“I believed them when they said the symptoms and the malaria drug probably weren’t related. Looking back, I should have realised the risks and shied away from doing drug tests for a third time.

“I’ve left hospital but the physical effects — and mental anguish — are still with me.

“I’m still experiencing headaches, pains in my arms and loss of memory that can be very upsetting.

“But though I’m still suffering, I know I’m probably the most fortunate of the men affected by the drugs — I even feel the luckiest man alive.

“But if you ask me whether I’d ever take part in a drugs trial again my answer would be a definite NO — not for a million pounds.”