Letter to the Editor

Letters to the EditorA week ago I wrote about sensationalism in the press and how grabbing a reader’s attention seems to be more important to the media at-large than telling a fair and balanced story. I promised to be a loud voice to try to change it and just wanted to share my first attempt by posting my “Letter to the Editor.”

Dear Sir/Madam,

I’m writing in response to an article posted in Al Jazeera America by David Martin entitled “Clinical trials: Guinea-pigging all the way to the bank.”  I was disheartened to read another sensationalistic article about clinical research participation.

Interestingly, much of what Mr. Martin said in his article is accurate.  Phase I studies, which also include bioequivalence/bioavailability studies to test generic drug products, are the first step in the clinical development process and the entire drug development/approval process is extremely expensive and time consuming.   He is also correct in reporting that there are a number of clinical research participants that earn a living enrolling in these ”healthy, normal volunteer” studies.

When I was teaching a clinical research course in Toronto, I actually assigned the Time Magazine article “Human Guinea Pigs: At Your Own Risk” by Michael D. Lemonick and Andrew Goldstein (April 2002) as required reading. Why? Because I felt our future clinical research professionals needed to know what the press felt was newsworthy. Not the work we do day in and day out to make a difference, not the extra time we spent with our patients (sorry, participants) to ensure they really did understand the risks and benefits of the research study, not the care we took to carefully document everything we did and make sure the work we did on a daily basis met the regulatory and ethical requirements … no the press wants to talk about “guinea pigs” and what we do to take advantage of them. You presume that we don’t realize that they are mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles … People—individuals—deserving of the utmost care and respect.  And that, sir/madam, is what I take exception to.  Nothing could be further from the truth and I only wish you were brave enough and insightful enough to report on that.

Thank you,

Terri Hinkley
Deputy Executive Director
Association of Clinical Research Professionals.

Death, destruction, sex and corruption

I thought that would get your attention.

headline

That’s what the many members of the press rely upon to attract readers…eye grabbing, emotion evoking ‘stories’ intended to suck readers in and cause an emotional reaction. This article I recently read in Al Jazeera is just another example of that and, frankly, I find it nauseating. I’ve been stewing about this since I read it, not unlike I stewed about it when I read the Vanity Fair article or the Time Magazine article before that.

When I was teaching a clinical research course in Toronto I actually assigned the Time Magazine article as required reading. Why? Because I felt our future clinical research professionals needed to know what the press felt was newsworthy. Not the work we do day in and day out to make a difference, not the extra time we spent with our patient (sorry, participant) to ensure they really did understand the risks and benefits of the research study, not the care we took to carefully document everything we did and made sure the documentation met the ALCOA requirements…no, the press wants to talk about guinea pigs, mistreatment and the exploitation of innocence and trust.  They presume that we don’t realize that they are mothers, fathers, grandparents, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles – people – individuals deserving of the utmost care and respect.

I’ve decided that I’ve had enough. Will I be a loud enough voice to change it? No, not likely, but I am going to try. Stay tuned, fellow researchers, I’ll be sending a letter to the editor to let him or her know how this type of journalism disrespects me, us and our profession. Maybe if we band together and let our feeling be known we can effect change at some level. It’s a result I’m willing to fight for. I hope you’re with me.

Until next time,

Terri