Do we ever think about the people who put their lives on the line to test the drugs that go to the FDA for approval, and then given to us via prescriptions from our doctor? It appears that the good old days of tricking prisoners, the handicapped and the illiterate into being the subject of test studies are over. Now, it appears that we have the “serial tester,” individuals who subjects him/herself to testing time and time again.
Since I’ve been diagnosed with aggressive RA, I’ve thought about it. I have wondered what it would be like to allow Scientists to poke, prod and inject me for the greater good. I am not totally against the idea, but I haven’t acted on it either. Maybe it’s only because I don’t know how, and I’ve never been presented with a clear opportunity. The truth is if the opportunity did come up, and if there was some cash to be made, I would be tempted.
This is why serial testers usually do it, for the money. Since these ” professional” volunteers don’t have the diseases they are testing for, for them, there are no medical pay-offs. Testing, for them, has become a lifestyle choice. The rest of the test subjects are selected because they have the disease being tested for, and they are hoping for a cure for themselves and for others.
Some ethicists have wondered if financial remuneration is a subtle form of coercion, though certainly not a new concept. In the 1900’s, as an example, volunteers were given $100. in gold to contract yellow fever , and since the law places no financial limits on privately funded researchers, sometimes recruits have been paid thousands of dollars.
There are many questions which have been raised, and not enough answers. For instance, are the serial testers always telling the truth about their health conditions? Telling the truth is essential when testing. Are they always telling the truth about the side effects they might be experiencing? Can tests for specific conditions really be tested on just anyone? And what does personality differences have to do test results?
Lets look at testing on antidepressants, as an example. It has been found that the personalities of serial testers vary greatly, and are quite different than the rest of the population. These volunteers don’t see risk the way the rest of us do. They are more likely to be “evil Knievel” types who are more willing than the rest of us to put their lives on the line. A research study has shown that these testers are significantly “less anxious” than the average person who would normally take antidepressants.
You might wonder what difference this would make to the outcome of the test, and amazingly, it was found to be quite significant. According to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory many of the test subjects ranged from psychopathic to hypochondriacs, meaning, according to the professionals involved that it may not be possible to get a conclusive study on people whose brains are significantly different from those who will eventually be taking the drugs.
Japanese researchers have found that drug absorption into the bloodstream is faster in neurotic volunteers than in less neurotic volunteers. So, if a drug is tested on a neurotic subject, and approved, then you may have a drug which reacts completely differently on a stressed and anxiety-filled patient. This brings us back to square one. We need people with normal anxiety issues to study for antidepressants, but they are too anxious and they don’t want to do it.
Also, a person with a perfectly working immune system will test very well when given certain vaccines, but a test subject that has a lowered immunity would test completely different. A stronger immune system means greater resistance, so the drug appears to work wonderfully, for the person who isn’t sick. For the sick person whose immune system is lowered, the drug would react differently, thereby rendering the test meaningless for many. The test subject took the risk for what? Well, money.
Where are the test subjects who are being tested for the side effects of combined multiple medications? Even if test subjects were tested for several different combined drugs, would it be the same drugs you would be prescribed? Would the subjects being tested have your same brain chemical make-up? What are the possible combinations of the thousands of available drugs?
It appears that many of the volunteers in the drug confinement study lied to researchers and purposely distorted the truth, especially about past drug and alcohol use. This means that the findings of the clinical drug trials have been compromised even further. Why did they lie? They were attempting to tell the researchers what they wanted to hear, so they would qualify for the paycheck.
In one study, 45 out of 282 participants claimed they didn’t smoke, but they tested positive for tobacco use. How do you make someone tell the truth? You can’t. It is a risk factor. Every year many applications are put into the food and drug administration by individuals to become test subjects. It is imperative that test subjects tell the truth because the proper outcome can’t be established unless the volunteers are healthy at the beginning of the study.
During a really stressful period in my own life I decided to jump on the prescription drug bandwagon and do what it seemed everybody was doing, and I got the doctor to give me a prescription for Prozac. After I took the little blue pill, I would sit in the chair, and soon a calm come over me, and for a short time I felt very serene. Later in the evening I experienced what can only be described as the hot-flashes from hell. It took me a couple weeks to figure it out that I was having a drug reaction.
Prozac burned my hair, my eyebrows and dried up my skin. It was burning me up! I had heat (a fever?) coming out of my shin, and the heat continued coming out of my shin for months after I stopped. It was wild. I wonder if anybody had the same reaction when they were testing it? It took months for my hair to return to normal. In fact, I had to cut my hair to get rid of the damage.
After I put two and two together, I looked at that Prozac as if it was a chemical that should never, ever be ingested by anyone. For me, it was strictly poison. I didn’t just throw them in the garbage, I burned those babies up. Then I thought about my son, Mitch, the boy who can’t talk because he has a cyst on the brain. What if the doctor described this poison to him, and he had no way of telling me what the side effects were?
What about when we put children; sometimes small children on these drugs? Are they able to verbalize what the side-effects are? No wonder people go crazy on those drugs sometimes! It was difficult for me, a perfectly sane and intelligent person, to figure out that I was being burned up by Prozac. As I am attempting to describe my experience to you, I can barely verbalize it, and I don’t know if I am able to describe it well enough that you will believe me. How would a child describe it, and would you believe them if they tried?
Some of our clinical testers have died, and some have become very ill in the interest of Medical advancement (and money), and in the end what do we have? We don’t have a clue what will work for you, or for me, because of what happened to them. Not a clue. The bottom line is: You are your own guinea-pig. There is no doubt that medications are miracles for some people. Some work for you, and different ones work for someone else.
When choosing medication for yourself, especially when they are combined, it is only through personal trial and error that you will find the drugs that will help you, and in doing so you take similar risks that the clinical testers do. The world of prescription drugs is like playing a game of Russian Roulette. If you are very careful, and aware, things might turn out alright. If you place total trust and faith in “FDA approved medications,” you might be in for a nice big surprise.