Medical Drug Trial That Turned Into A Living Nightmare


Before a medical drug makes its way into the
market it has to go through various stages of testing. This starts with a laboratory investigation
which might begin with lab-grown human cells and computer models. If the drug passes that test, then scientists
move on to animal testing. If the drug gets the green light again we
bring in the humans. The drugs are tested on people in what we
call clinical trials, or drug studies. These trials might include healthy people
or sick people. They can test a drug’s effectiveness, side-effects,
or how the body absorbs it (bioavailability). The drugs should already be safe, but there
have been times that things went horribly wrong. That’s what we’ll talk about today, in
this episode of the Infographics Show, Medical drug trials that turned in living nightmares. Before we get to the horror, let’s first
paint a picture of what a medical trial might look like. They don’t always create “Elephant Men”,
our last and most disturbing tale on this list. Let’s say you’re testing for bioavailability. Generally, you will apply to do the test and
then be asked to come in for an interview and some checks. If you pass you’re given a date and location
where the study will take place. You will likely be asked to fast just before
you come in, not take drugs (including alcohol) and possibly even grapefruit juice. All trials are different, but one man told
us when he did trials in Montreal, Canada that he would turn-up to a center and then
was told he would be a number as well as a name. He fondly remembers being number 17 during
one trial. He said the center had a pool table, rooms
with bunk beds, TVs, and games consoles. There were also books and magazines to read. Everyone had to eat the same food and finish
the meal; all participants ate according to their number and that’s why everyone wanted
to be number one. After awhile he said everyone is peeing and
pooing almost in line with their numbers. You can leave the study, but you won’t usually
get paid. He said being confined with other snoring,
not always nice men, can be challenging and on his trials at least one day involved having
20+ blood draws. If you don’t have a catheter this can turn
your arms black and blue. “Many of the people were jobless and desperate,
some were musicians or writers and others were actually medical students from Montreal’s
universities,” he said. He got about $200 a day and the longest trial
he did was two separate runs of 5 days, so it’s not a bad paycheck for doing nothing
but playing games and reading. No one in his trial had a bad reaction to
the drugs, although he said there were heated arguments at times over the TV channel or
someone’s loud snoring, and some people fainted during blood draws. Ok, you get the picture. We’ll start with some lighter stories and
finish with 2006’s horror trial that shook the world. All these are fairly recent cases, but going
back into the past we could certainly dig-up some shocking tales such as the testing of
the drug Thalidomide. If it kills monkeys… This recent trial that went wrong took place
in France in 2016. It was so bad that the European Union decided
it was time to create new laws that protected volunteers. The trial was said to have been bungled, and
it led to the death of one man and brain damage of four more. A company called Biotrial was testing a compound
called BIA 10-2474 that was being tested to cure a number of diseases. The volunteers at the trial at first did not
suffer any serious side-effects. But when their dose was increased “volunteer
2508” said his vision went blurry and he had headaches. “We expected to see him come back,” said
one of the staff, so the trial continued. The man, a 49-year old artist, was declared
brain dead the next day. As for three of the four others that were
sick, a doctor later said, “that even in the best situation there will be an irreversible
handicap.” The payment was around $2200 for two weeks. An investigation later revealed that several
monkeys had died during pre-human testing, but this information was not in the study
protocol report. Drug Blindness
This story involves women taking part in a drug trial to improve eyesight. What happened was exactly the opposite, they
lost their sight. The Independent in the UK called the 2017
drug trial “botched.” It certainly was. The U.S. patients even had to pay $5,000 to
take part. They were testing stem cell treatments to
improve their eyesight as the aged women suffered from something called “macular degeneration”
that can make some objects look blurry. “They are now totally blind and unlikely
to recover,” an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami told
The Independent. Reports suggest the study was a kind of wild
west trial, with some experts saying it wasn’t even founded on scientific evidence. The Independent writes, “The treatment involved
combining fat tissue removed from the patients’ abdomens with enzymes to obtain ‘adipose-derived’
stem cells.” That was mixed with blood and injected into
the women’s eyes. But the drug was injected into both eyes at
once, which is a very fundamental mistake. They might have only lost one eye’s sight
had the test been done right. In all, the study was a kind of Dr. Frankenstein
experiment according to experts, and the women now see nothing at all. Enlarged Brains
This terrible tale happened in 2016 when five people died after testing a medicine called
chimeric antigen receptor (CAR-T) in the USA. The treatment was seen as possibly a miracle
cure, which consisted of adding an extra disease-fighting protein to a person’s immune cells. All the people in the trial had leukemia and
were hoping to be cured. The treatment was seen as a great breakthrough
in medicine and even won prizes. But things went wrong during one trial. The company doing the trial admitted that
an internal investigation revealed the patients had died due to severe cerebral edema. The worst thing is, the trial continued as
they thought they knew what had caused this brain swelling. And then in a subsequent trial more people
died. CAR-T therapy is still seen as a possible
cure for cancer, although in 2017 during a French trial we were told, “One patient
died from multiple organ failure probably triggered by neutropenic sepsis at day 15.” We should add here that hundreds of people
die each year in drug trials in the U.S. and UK (thousands in India), but many of those
people are already on death’s door. That’s certainly not always the case, though,
as you will see. Pocket Money
19-year old student Nicole Wan was a healthy young girl who took part in a medical trial
in 1996 to earn a bit of extra cash to pay the bills and have some fun. She would have got $150 for taking part in
a trial at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York state. The New York Times wrote that the researchers
had violated their own guidelines by giving the girl an increased amount of the anesthetic,
Lidocaine. The test was to see what effect pollution
had on her respiratory system, and that involved having a tube inserted into her lungs. For that you must have a local anesthetic
as without one it would be mightily uncomfortable. The Times wrote at the time, “She never
told her parents, a restaurant worker and a seamstress who are immigrants from Hong
Kong and live in Queens.” Because she was given so much anesthetic,
after the study the young woman started to feel weak and had a lot of pain. Two days later her heart stopped, and she
died. “She was coughing and having difficulty,”
a doctor told the Times. “So, they kept spritzing more Lidocaine
down her throat,” he said. Reports also state the girl had not known
exactly the kind of test she would be going through. The Elephant Man Trial
Finally, we come to perhaps scariest story in drug study history, what we know about
anyway. It happened in the UK in 2006 at London’s
Northwick Park Hospital. Eight very healthy young men would be given
an experimental immune system drug called TGN1412, for the treatment of leukemia. After taking the drug things turned very dark
for six of them (two lucky others took the placeboes). The story sounds like something from a horror
movie. “It was all manic, everything was happening
all at once, they were vomiting, they were screaming in pain, people fainting,” said
one BBC documentary on the disaster. As the men’s organs failed and their temperatures
rocketed, their bodies also swelled in the extreme. Some reports say their heads almost doubled
in size – hence Elephant Man trial. No one knew what had happened. “This was a mystery, we had no way of predicting
how severe it was going to get. There was no rule book for how to deal with
this,” one doctor later said. One man told The Guardian, “I started shouting,
‘Doctor, this pain is killing me, do something.’” He recalled the placebo takers were happily
reading books, although some reports say they were later horrified by what they saw. The Guardian writes that one man, “suffered
heart, liver and kidney failure, pneumonia, septicemia and frostbite-like symptoms that
resulted in his toes and sections of his feet being amputated and several fingertips falling
off.” They were all rushed to intensive care and
the trial was declared by police a crime scene. Amazingly, they all survived, but what happened
to them may mean they don’t live long lives. They are still alive today, though. We imagine they got their $2,500 for the trial,
and at least one of them claimed millions in compensation. Although, one medical website writes, “The
long-term effects on their immune systems remain unknown, though on discharge some were
warned they may suffer an increased risk of cancers and autoimmune diseases.” A bit of advice, if you’re going to do a
drug trial, be sure to do your research. Is the drug new? Are you the first
to test it? That’s a matter of importance. After hearing this, would you take part in
a medical drug trial? Have you already done one? What was it like? Tell us in the comments. Also, be sure to check out our other video
A Day in the Life of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un. Thanks for watching, and as always, please
don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. See you next time.

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