1 EAGLETON NOTES: In Search of Cures

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Friday, 12 October 2018

In Search of Cures

"It's how you tell them that matters." That's what is said about jokes, I believe. So entitling this post "In Search of Cures" sets minds off on a particular train of thought rather than if I'd said, for example, "In Praise of Drug Companies" which would almost certainly have elicited instant critical debate.

I've just spent three days in Glasgow: Monday and Tuesday having CT/MRI scans and a bone scan and Wednesday having my 16-weekly Drug Trial Review. All funded by drug companies and, in part, by cancer charities.

I don't know how many medical trials there are going on in the world at any one time but it is probably thousands and, of those, the majority will probably involve drugs and, therefore, drug companies.

I am a participant in a trial for a drug specific to the cure and/or prevention of prostate cancer: a cancer for which I was first operated on 20 years ago and for which I have been receiving treatment ever since. I understand that the trial runs for 6 years. I don't know how many countries are taking part but there are a lot of languages on the medicine literature.

The Trial is a 67:33 double-blind trial. A blind or blinded-experiment is an experiment in which information about the test is masked (kept) from the participant, to reduce or eliminate bias, until after a trial outcome is known. It is understood that bias may be intentional or subconscious, thus no dishonesty is implied by blinding. If both tester and subject are blinded, the trial is called a double-blind experiment. The 66:33 means that 67% of the participants get the real drug and 33% get the placebo.

All this is done to satisfy the drug company that the drug is efficacious. If it is then the results will be used to convince the powers that be in the countries throughout the world to licence the drug for general use.

I have absolutely no idea how many scientists and researchers it takes to produce any particular drug nor what a trial and, if successful, subsequent licensing costs. Back in 2013 in a BBC article it was said that patents are generally awarded for 20 years but 10-12 of those years are typically spent developing the drug at a cost of about $1.5bn-$2.5bn. The remaining years are used to make the profit before the drug is made by generic manufacturers. However lots of drugs never get past the trial stage and only a very small number of drugs are 'super-earners'.

I have little doubt that there is much for which to criticise drug companies but I shall leave that to others.

As a beneficiary of their drugs in general and of this particular trial in particular I have to say that I'm not feeling in a critical mood.

37 comments:

  1. If it works use it. It's benefiting you .

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  2. Such a long process. My Dad had the benefit of being on a trial for a new method of aortic valve replacement without open heart surgery, a very expensive procedure using a wonderful invention called a Lotus Valve. All free !!It's been a great success as he will soon be 97. hope you are getting the real drug !

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    1. Helsie, it's good to hear about the benefits your Dad received. Given the huge improvement in my cancer indicators there would seem to be little doubt that I'm on the real drug.

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    2. Oh, that's great news Graham. I always feel really sorry for the ones on the dummy drug who are hoping for a cure/improvement to their illness.

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  3. I can be a loud critic of drug companies but it occurs to me that maybe it's not drug companies per se, but the combination of drugs and capitalism.
    I'm glad you have had an extra twenty years, however you got them

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    1. Kylie, I did wonder at one stage about the issue of drugs and capitalism but the idea of a government having to make funds available for medical research just doesn't bear thinking about. With the Age of Austerity we've had since 2008 and the cutbacks medical research would be an easy target.

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  4. Some find it easier to criticise than praise. Without these experiments/trials we'd be still back in the Dark Ages. (In some instances, I think we still are)!

    Those who do most of the loud bleating (without knowledge to back up their noise) would be the first to put out their hands if they were in need of a cure!!

    I hope only positive results for you, Graham. Take care. :)

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    1. Thanks Lee. I agree with what you say. And thanks for the positive thoughts.

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  5. I have Type 2 Diabetes (quite mildly), and take my pills daily. Both my parents were also Diabetics, but had very different treatment. I tend not to ask questions about the drugs I take, but am extremely grateful that they keep me from Boot Hill.

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    1. Cro, I don't take any drugs for my Type 2 but on the prostate front there have been massive leaps forward in the 20 years since my diagnosis and operation.

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    1. Thank you Mrs C. I don't think we've 'met' before. Good to see you.

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  7. I doubt whether I would have the bottle to be a guinea pig. Full marks to you.

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  8. On the whole I'm for the Drug Companies. MOH (my other, better half or my old husband) has been helped for over 30 yrs for heart, prostate and 'mild' diabetes. I guess we all wish there were a cheap to research and produce magic pill that will 'cure' our pressing conditions, we are rooting now for a dementia reversal bit of magic.
    Lots of Positive Mental Attitude and I hope also that you are in the 67%.

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    1. Potty, I'm a great advocate of positivity and given the huge improvement in my cancer indicators there would seem to be little doubt that I'm on the real drug.

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  9. Well my view is that anything is worth a try.

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  10. A close family friend of ours was diagnosed HIV positive many years ago. That he is still alive and actually really well is mostly thanks to his being participant in long-term drug tests.
    If I was in a situation to need regular medication, I would also participate in tests. If it helps me AND possibly others, all the better.

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    1. Meike, HIV sufferers have seen huge strides made in that from the days it first became a 'Western' problem. I hope you are never in a situation where you need the benefit from a drugs trial.

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  11. Graham is an odd name for a guinea pig. Usually they are called Fluffy, Goldie, Sniffles - cute names like that but not Graham. What are you having for lunch today? Some lettuce leaves and half a carrot?

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    1. YP, I'm sure many guinea pigs have had odder names than Graham.

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  12. At some point when the results show a solid degree of promise, I believe the placebo group should be given the drug treatment being tested, for the same amount of time, not just the time left on the trial.

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    1. Maywyn, the trial I'm on is, I believe, reaching that point. However, given the huge improvement in my cancer indicators there would seem to be little doubt that I'm on the real drug.

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  13. Pay no attention to Yorkshire Pudding. He thinks he is being funny.

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  14. A good reminder that some of the money we pay for the medicines we need actually also go into developing new cures for others (maybe even for ourselves, as none of us know what the future holds!) Glad you feel that partaking in the trial is working out for you! ♥

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    1. Thanks, Monica. I do think that without the (huge) profits drug companies wouldn't have the incentive to invest so much.

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  15. My hubby was on one of those trials for a heart drug. It works well and its on the market now but he got a years free trial. Good luck with yours.

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    1. My feeelings about drug companies are ambivalent, but I’m so grateful if your trial is keeping you well, Graham.

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  16. I hope things continue to go well for you, Graham. My knowledge of drug trials is limited but a lifelong friend has been engaged in drug design (in academia) for several decades, mostly cancer-related. It’s a tough job, switching between seeking funding to keep the research going (I.e., keeping his international team of researchers employed, building on what they know) and actually progressing the research. From what I understand very few compounds make it out of the lab, fewer still anywhere near human trials. The timescale is decades, not years and for every success there must be hundreds of disappointments.

    I know nothing about drug companies but I hope your trial brings benefits. Stay strong.

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    1. Thank you for your insightful and informative comment, Michael. I see you are, amongst other things, a 'proper' photographer. Those were the days. I do not have the artistic flair nor the patience now.

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  17. I don't know what I think about drug companies. A relative of mine who was a doctor used to love them. As a consultant specialising in a particularly depressing incurable disease, she said that she spent all day sitting in a room feeling bad about people being upset, and so it was a total highlight to have a visit from someone who instead wanted to take her out to dinner and ask her how her life was going.

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  18. I'm with Michael - in hoping that your trial brings you benefits!

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