Apr 3, 2013

Myths and truths about cancer clinical trials

Myth #1—Cures already exist for many cancers but drug companies are keeping them under wraps in order to make even higher profits when they are released or to profit from current less effective drugs.

Truth #1—You gotta be kidding! The world drug market is large and very competitive and no pharmaceutical company is going to give up a chance to market a great product. Holding back could give other companies a chance to develop and market a similar drug.

Myth #2—Many experimental cancer drugs in the U.S. have already been tested and approved in other countries.

Truth #2—Sometimes drugs ARE available first in other countries. But the U.S. is by far the world leader in cancer research and new drugs are more often than not available to Americans first.

Myth #3—If I join a clinical trial, whether it is successful or not, I’ll be disqualified from ever participating in a trial again.

Truth #3—Nope. Many people with cancer participate in two, three, or more trials in their lifetime. This author (LWA) has participated in three clinical trials and is considering a fourth. Your previous history, including clinical trials, could be considered when you apply for a new clinical trial. Do your homework and make sure joining a trial is in your best interests.

Misconception #4—In almost all cases, drug testing can be done in test-tubes, with animals, and by computer simulations. Testing on humans is seldom necessary.

Answer #4—Don’t we all wish! It would certainly be faster and cheaper if people were not needed in the drug approval process. But, in fact, testing on humans is currently the only way to determine proper dosages, the effects of side effects, and whether or not the drug actually cures or manages cancer.

Myth #5—Drug companies pay hospitals and doctors a lot of money to ensure they get the best possible results from clinical trials. The better the results, the higher the payments.

Truth #5—The pharmaceutical companies often pay for some or most of the costs of a clinical trial. These payments are never linked to the results of the trial.  And, at the end of the day, academic centers do not make a profit on clinical research.  There are several layers of safeguards to make sure trials are conducted scientifically and accurately.

Myth #6—Most clinical trials only accept participants who have the least serious and dangerous types of the cancer being tested in the trial in order to improve the chances of getting good results.

Truth #6—Cancer treatment drugs are developed for all levels and stages of cancer. Some trials, however, may exclude patients with serious heart, lung, kidney, or liver diseases to protect them from unknown side effects. After a drug is proven successful and safe, these high-risk people may be included in further studies.

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

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