HUMAN GUINEA PIGS FEATURE
occupied. A Mediterranean cruise it isn‘t. but ifthey survive the drugs they will have earned enough to board the 0E2 — over £1000 for a cushy few weeks. No one was tripping over themselves to reveal their full fees. for fear the men from the DSS might overhear. For while technically we all ‘volunteer‘. you don‘t see many wageearners dropping in for a dose or two. Doubtless we will all survive, because lnveresk operates on strict guidelines which ensure that no one is unsuitable for the trials. Yet while it is reassuring to know the centre has my interests at heart there is still
one nagging thought that refuses to go away. It is this: what if I die?
After all. this is a clinical trial. and only one in fifteen drugs to reach this stage ever makes it on to the market. By their very nature. doctors and nurses exist to make us better. but at lnveresk healthy people can soon begin to feel under the weather. Just a mild faint perhaps. or a bout of vomiting. Or. who knows. a couple ofstomach ulcers? One colleague. an old lnveresk faithful. regaled me with horror stories of
third hut contracted the disease. This being I900. most ofthem died.
I In the 503 American psychologists were excited by an experimental new drug which it became all the rage to prescribe to the staidest of their patients. Thus was LSD introduced to an unsuspecting American population.
I In 1960 it was estimated that over 50.000 prisoners in American gaols were willingly taking part in drug trials. While most were innocuous enough .
one group. under the impression they were receiving medical treatment. were having their testicles irradiated to measure the toxic effects of radiation.
I In the USA it takesthe Federal Drug Administration four years to approve a new drug. This is not fast enough for people with AIDS. an estimated five per cent of whom have formed a network to manufacture. import and distribute incompletely tested drugs
which might. or might not.
endoscopies — cameras lowered into the stomach — without anaesthetic. It was so painful. he admitted. that it made him cry. but cash was the incentive; the light at the end ofthe tunnel.
Short and sweet. I had hoped. before arriving at Inveresk. Two nights? A doddle. Pyjamas packed. and a bagful of books over my shoulder. I sauntered into the centre. It took a full five minutes for the doubts to come sneaking back. It was a combination of many things: the predictable TV diet of Daytime Live and Neighbours (twice); the soggy salads at lunchtime; the nurse who marched into the ward with the immortal words ‘So you’re the Sanofi boys’. It was the boredom and the repetition; above all it was the blood-letting. Starting on the first evening at 6pm. it continued the next morning. Meticulous in their timing, the nurses would glide in to the ward and begin their grim task with all the cheerful efficiency of a village butcher. A quick swab of alcohol on the arm and in the needle went, homing in to the ripest vein. When the first jab arrived I felt prepared. until my neighbour passed out. ‘I should explain’. the nurse said, as she slipped the needle in. ‘we have to swap the syringe over half-way through. so the needle will sit there for a wee while.” Some comfort. Almost as mollifying as the nurse who found it amusing to pretend that black pudding was on the lunchtime menu.
It was lights out at 12.30. There used to be individual lamps at each bedside. but they all disappeared long ago. like the videos. the games. and even the lock on the disabled toilets. On longer trials. volunteers are allowed to the shops. but only the nurses are actually allowed in them. Never put temptation in temptation’s way. If there is a price we pay as volunteers it is the loss of self-esteem.
Lights are on again at 6.45am. when sister marches in. ‘Up you get boys. Time to fill your bottles.‘ Filling my bottle is a euphemism for pissing in a plastic jar. accompanied by the musical tinkle of four others doing likewise in the adjacent cubicles. This is how the day begins: it is still
dark outside. and the test-tubes glimmer under the ﬂuorescent lights. waiting silently for my chromosomes. I am beginning to feel homesick.
When the drug itself is administered I am disappointed. At the very least I had expected a struggle. In the event I took the pill without question. and allowed the doctor to examine my mouth without resorting to a straight-jacket. To cap it all nothing happens. Not a darn thing. I don‘t even have a headache. I go to breakfast feeling disappointed. Not even the caffeine-free tea and skimmed milk can compensate. We were given the drug at 8am and blood was ritually extracted at intervals oftwo. four. eight and sixteen hours.
I find Jack. one ofthe pensioners, and ask him what it‘s like to be on the hard stuff. He’s testing anti-arthritis drugs. which is some kind of service to humankind. I suppose. My ‘Sanofi‘ fix, on the other hand. might vaguely help reduce inﬂamation caused by allergies. Useful? It might be if there were not already several suitable drugs on the market. But let‘s face it. neither me nor the pharmaceutical industries are here out ofsome vague duty to our species— we‘re here because we both want to make some dosh.
‘The nurses would glide in to the ward and' begin their grim task with all the cheerful efficiency of a village butcher.’
When the moment ofrelease finally dawns on the third day. it is a liberation. Just one final needle (horrors. it’s the dinner lady!). and then freedom. before returning the following week fora quick medical and a juicy cheque. Was it worth £130? Yes. if your bank balance. like mine. competes with the American deficit. But I am still not inspired to carry donor cards or give blood regularly. After all. I don‘t recall Margaret Thatcher dropping in to Finchley Blood Centre. or John Major depositing at his local sperm bank. Ifour elected leaders can‘t
show a positive interest. why should I?
be of benefit. Without proper scientific surveillance. this ad-hoc testingisunlikelyto provide any global medical benefit.
I In 1991 Swedish scientists fed two groups of volunteers suffering from rheumatoid arthritis on vegetarian and carnivorous diets. Those on the meat-free diet enjoyed considerably less pain from their disease.
I We owe much of our
to the sacrifice of
understanding of anatomy
Alexandria during the 3rd century BC. The medical encyclopaedist (‘elsus records that IIerophilos and Erasistratos ‘dissected such criminals alive as were delivered over to them from the prisons by royal sanction; carefully observing before they had ceased to breathe. those parts which are by nature concealed. This was by far the best way ofobtaining knowledge.‘ llerophilos is known as the Fatherof Anatomy and Erasistratos as the Fatherof
The List 14 — 27 February 1992 7