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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chasing Medical Miracles

FIFTY million people around the world are guinea pigs in clinical trials testing experimental drugs right now.

In a review found @  "Apart from potentially risking their lives, participants must pass a gruelling battery of tests just to be allowed into some trials. Acceptance only means more tests, side effects and considerable disruption to their daily lives. So what's in it for them?

"As journalist Alex O'Meara explains in Chasing Medical Miracles, some take part out of genuine altruism, while some are looking for cures for their own illnesses. O'Meara, a lifelong diabetic himself, volunteered for a risky transplant of insulin-producing cells from the liver, and his story permeates the book.

"More often than not, O'Meara finds, people choose to participate thanks to life's great motivator: money. Clinical trials are big business, raking in $24 billion a year, and the cash they offer as compensation has become a sought-after way to supplement meagre wages.

"This exchange of money, often involving people who are sick and vulnerable, underscores the murky ethical waters in which today's clinical trials are mired.

"The ill often feel compelled to take part in a trial in order to get medical care. Some unscrupulous researchers, frantic to recruit the large numbers needed to make their studies statistically valid, encourage this thinking. It can be hard for ill people to grasp that, at best, they are taking experimental medicine, and at worst, they are taking nothing at all.

"Desperation - for money or medicine - is never a solid foundation for unbiased decision-making. How can a researcher be sure a person is truly providing informed consent? And if a person gets better on an experimental drug, what happens when the trial, and their drug supply, end."

Monday, November 23, 2009

@ltaSCRIBE: Ben Sherwood

In tough times, who bounces back and who doesn’t? After losing a job, who finds a new one and who gives up? After a devastating medical diagnosis, who beats the odds and who doesn’t? And perhaps most important: What do survivors and thrivers know that we don’t? | Regarding this work, Sangeeth Varghese, a columnist for In his new book, The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life (Grand Central. 400 pp., $25.99), Sherwood looks for the qualities that have helped ordinary people survive and thrive under extraordinary duress. He closely analyzes the experiences of a few survivors who have been tested to the extreme, "people who have been beaten down, sometimes literally flattened, and how they managed to pick themselves up, again and again, in the face of the unthinkable." By dissecting these survivor's mindsets and habits, he unlocks secrets that can help us improve our own chances of survival, both in our personal and professional worlds.


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