Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Treatment Trials

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The history of clinical trials is a varied one, consisting of a mixture of many successes and occasional failures1. Unfortunately, some of the rare failures are often more remembered, and receive far more press coverage, than the successes. One incident in recent history consisted of a clinical trial at Nothwick Park, in North London, where six subjects were hospitalised with multiple organ failure after testing TGN14122, a drug developed for leukemia and arthritis. This received extensive media coverage and still remains in peoples thoughts. For many, the term clinical trials invokes images of needles, being trapped in a hospital room and the notion that the doctors can do whatever they want to you because you have signed your life away.

However, the image of clinical trials has been rapidly changing over the years, and so has the way the public perceive medical trials. This has been seen in the recent changes in the way the media reports clinical trials, representing them in a more beneficial and factual way3, leading to an alleviation of public fears. During this seemingly endless recession, clinical trials appear to be a fast and easy way to make a considerable amount of money. The regulation of medical trials has become increasingly stringent in the years following Nothwick Park, with regulatory authorities and medical companies being required to go to excessive lengths during their recruitment process to carry out medical checks before accepting volunteers into a trail and to fully inform them of the risks of what is involved.

Clinical trials are a vital part of the development of new medicines, without which new drugs cannot be developed and brought to market. This leaves less effective medications and treatments available to people, many of which have undesired side effects or are no longer effective. Animal models, while providing a vital stage in drug development and safety testing, are unable to determine how the drug will react and be metabolised in humans or if the drug will be effective. Medical trials play an essential role in the advancement of science, but they can also be a positive experience for the volunteers, as they gain a greater understanding of how new medications are developed and the rigorous testing they undergo before becoming available to the public. Many volunteers state that initially they took part in trials because of the financial benefits available, but during and after the trial they found the volunteers became more motivated by being involved in the science. Some even went as far as deciding on a career change to medicine4.


E Markham (2012). Treatment Trials Blogspot

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