Makomed's Weblog

If We Knew What We Were Doing

Posted on: May 11, 2007

Before I write some more, let me preface my future musings with a disclaimer:

It is important that you know what type of research I am doing.

If you seek a researcher who is a scientific doctor (MD/PhD), I would recommend you peruse fellow SDNr’, Ben Fergusun’s excellent blog. Or take your pick.

But really, what is a researcher? Even Dr. Kim has a hard time answering that one.

Well sir, I am a research coordinator. I help determine which experimental drugs have the most beneficial value and potential to obtain FDA approval—thus making it available to the public. I also help give otherwise hopeless patients a new option that they might not have otherwise received until the FDA approves it, years later.

Did you know that Propecia was originally an experimental drug with hopes to treat hypertension? But when research coordinators found that many female subjects were unhappy with their new found hirsutism, the implications for the drug changed. Medical research shines a beacon of light for the wayward and dismal (balding men), and it speaks to us and pinpoints the way to treat the future brood (Propecia is not good for high blood pressure, so try something else).

I am a shepherd, ushering patients through the underground railroad of clinical trials, watching and recording their every reaction to the new drug. Telling them when to come back to get their next experimental dose and talking to them to see how they feel. I run blood tests, ECG tests, PET/CT scans, MRIs, biopsies, process tissues and specimens, send subjects for treatment, dispense the study drug, and observe, then record and notify the investigating physician of the process. I see if the drug has efficacy, and make sure the patient remains happy and well. I collect this information, and I send it to the lab and drug companies (who sends it to the FDA), or to the National Institute of Health—so they can decide whether or not the drug should be given to everyone.

All this has to be done under the light of strictly enforced ethics because research coordinators have a dark past. Many people still remember the body deforming experiments of the Nazi doctors on Jewish prisoners. Americans also have their share of cruel medical scientists that used blacks and mentally ill children as lab rats. Clinical research should be used to extract healing knowledge—but not at the expense of others.

They call the process a “clinical trial” because no one really knows what’s going to happen. Like Einstein said, “If we knew what we were doing, then we wouldn’t call it research.”


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