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drug trials gone wrong


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It was supposed to be a routine trial on humans after successful animal testing. But one ‘exquisite difference’ between people and monkeys that nobody knew about has shattered the lives of six men and their families

EYE-WITNESSES describe it as being more like a clip from a David Cronenberg horror movie than a glimpse inside the normally dull and routine world of a suburban British drug testing centre. Instead of a sedate scene of tea and biscuits, flannel pyjamas, thermometers and clip-boards, men were screaming and holding their heads as if they were going to explode; others writhed on the floor, vomiting, hyperventilating and ripping their own clothes off. A room full of convulsing, hysterical, delirious human guinea pigs – their limbs swelling up and turning purple – begged staff to save their lives as doctors and nurses looked on helplessly.

That’s exactly what happened on Monday, moments after six healthy young men, all aged under 40, were injected with the cutting-edge trial drug TGN1412 – designed to tackle leukaemia and rheumatoid arthritis – at an independent research unit in London’s Northwick Park Hospital.

Almost a week later, two men are still in intensive care – one possibly trapped in a coma for at least a year – and the four others are showing a marginal improvement. Raste Khan, a test subject who escaped any of the terrible side-effects as he was given a harmless placebo, watched in horror as his six fellow subjects collapsed around him one by one.

“The test ward turned into a living hell minutes after we were injected,†he said. “The men went down like dominoes. First they began tearing their shirts off, complaining of fever, then some screamed that their heads felt like they were about to explode.

“After that they started fainting, vomiting and writhing around in their beds. It was terrifying because I kept expecting it to happen to me, but I felt fine and didn’t know why. An Asian guy next to me started screaming and his breathing went haywire as though he was having a terrible panic attack.

“They put an oxygen mask on him but he kept tearing it off, shouting ‘doctor, doctor, please help me!’. He started convulsing, shouting that he was getting shooting pains in his back.â€

Some of the victims have been described as resembling “the Elephant man†because of the grotesque swelling that the drug has caused to their bodies. Myfanwy Marshall, the girlfriend of one of the six men, said she had been told that he needed “a miracleâ€.

One of many articles (Sunday Herald)

It does raise some interesting questions about human experimentation (often a devious form of the exploitation of the poor, if you ask me) and to what extent "informed consent" has any meaning whatsoever when even the manufacturers and chemical designers don't - at their own admission - understand the underlying mechanisms themselves.

The drug is TGN1412 (hasn't been given one of those hip, sexy names yet).

What this has to do with jambands, I dunno ... I'm sleepy and a wee bit drunk ...

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This is a tough and very relevant subject for me right now. A close loved one of mine is currently undergoing an experimental drug trial as a last ditch attempt to achieve remission in order to be able to go through with a potentially even riskier stem cell transplant.

I've always had mixed opinions on this matter, and now things are even more complicated. First of all, there is a problem when the eligibility of even being able to get access to these drugs is determined solely by pharmaceuatical companies that are not accountable to anyone but their shareholders. My relative was supposed to start a trial over two months ago, only to have it delayed the day she was supposed to start it (the delay was for over a month). Anyone that knows anything about acute leukemia knows that a month is an eternity for someone in that position.

She has since started the trial, but was in SIGNIFICANTLY worse shape going into it. Now even if she survives the absolute hell that she is going through right now, a transplate is now an unlikely option, given that her body would be unable to handle the additional stress. Although unlikely, at this point our hope is that she gets well enough to actually get out of the hospital and ride things out at home for awhile.

I don't want to give off the impression that I am against drugs that save people's lives, but I will have to say that the havoc that some of these "treatments" wreak on someone's body, mind and spirit is at best questionable, and at worst almost inherently...wrong? unatural? (for lack of a better word). This includes "non-experimental" therapies including chemo. Something about filling your body with toxic sludge is just strange (mind you if it was my life threatened, I would certainly be considering my limited options carefully)

However, it is worth noting that eastern medicine approaches cancer in a very different way.

This issue (like most) is nested within a much larger problem that we have on our hands. Our health care industry (or perhaps the better word is our "illness" industry) is so reactionary in nature, and invests almost all of our money in treating a problem once it has already materialized. Very little attention or resources are being directed towards investing in health supportive (or health promoting environments). Unhealthy ecosystems, degraded physical environments, and poor social and economic conditions are our underlying problems. We will only see cancer rates continue to skyrocket until some of these more systemic issues are addressed. Seeing as how already 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women (CAN YOU BELIEVE THESE NUMBERS!!!!) will get cancer at some point n our lives, I don't see how things could get much worse before we wake up!!

I'm not pretending to have an answer to this problem, and perhaps it is easier not to care. But fostering public awareness and SOME sort of community engagement in decision-making processes seems to be one step in the right direction.

Well, I could ramble on and on about this, but I think I will leave things as they are (for now anyways)...

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