A 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.”
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.
Deputy Executive Director
Association of Clinical Research Professionals.