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Commentary

Giving the Sick a Chance for Help, Hope
Jerry Fensterman, The Boston Globe, 8-3-06

Fensterman details his experiences as a cancer clinical trial participant in order to galvanize reforms that can help patients get better access to cutting edge treatments. He argues that the increasing lack of trial participants can be traced to the great expenses and hardships inherent in navigating the clinical trial enrollment process. Reforming the system, he contends, will attract more participants and help researchers speed more effective treatments onto the market.

I'm lucky. I live close to major research centers. My doctor leads many trials and knows of others. My employer was unusually supportive. I possess sufficient moxie to advocate for myself. And I do have that insurance. Missing even one of these characteristics might doom my chances.

Improving the system won't be easy. Human experimentation demands extraordinary caution, well–organized administration, and oversight. Achieving cost efficiencies is easier in larger systems. Yet we have to do more to help the many people who don't share my advantages.

Given the vast profits of the pharmaceutical companies and the public good at stake, it doesn't seem too much to ask all interested parties to partner in improving this system, making it easier for sick or dying patients to participate in clinical trials without regard to where they live or how much money they have. That includes not having to pay one penny for the right to be a guinea pig. After all, you may one day live a better life because of the vomiting I did certainly on my behalf but possibly also on yours.



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