A new therapy for children with curved spines was approved for general use after tests only on pigs and dead bodies, an investigation has revealed. Magec rods are supposed to help straighten the spine. But experts say the rods appear to snap too easily and say they are “very surprised” at how little evidence was needed to get them approved. The manufacturers Nuvasive said there was always risk in treating scoliosis and Magec had rebuilt families’ lives. BBC Panorama has been working with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and 58 media organisations around the world including The Guardian newspaper and the British Medical Journal. Anthony Wainess, from California in the US, had a severely twisted and curved spine from the disease scoliosis. “All the time I bend down it’s like a shark’s fin at the back,” he said back when he was nine and before having treatment. The standard treatment would have involved surgery to insert metal rods around the spine to straighten it. But the rods need to be lengthened as children grow, which means operations every six months. Anthony was given Magec rods in 2013. They are marketed as a safer and cheaper alternative because they can be lengthened with magnets while still in the body. The inventors got them approved for use across Europe via Germany – five years before the US – after studies on pigs and dead bodies. The rods were recommended by NICE, the body that decides best practice for the UK’s National Health Service, in 2014.