Therapeutic misconception: Reporting on the Cape Cod clinical trial participant

images nihA WBUR host on fundraising duty this morning talked about how NIH has figured out a way around the federal shutdown to get a so-called life-saving treatment to a Cape Cod man in a drug study.

The fact is, if you are in a clinical trial, no one can promise that you are getting a life-saving drug. The purpose of a clinical trial is to prove or disprove that experimental drugs are life saving.

The patient on the Cape is in a study to test whether a drug approved for thyroid cancer  will work on his metastatic bile duct cancer. For him, it’s hope. But it’s research. The “therapeutic misconception” is the notion that clinical trials offer  teatment. In randomized trials, you’re not even guaranteed to get a drug — you might get a placebo.

A researcher from the psychiatry department at UMass Medical puts it this way: “The therapeutic misconception occurs when a research subject fails to appreciate the distinction between the imperatives of clinical research and of ordinary treatment, and therefore inaccurately attributes therapeutic intent to research procedures. The therapeutic misconception is a serious problem for informed consent in clinical research.”

The Globe:

Cape Cod man’s last-chance treatment for cancer…father of three is now unlikely to receive an experimental drug 

.. cabozantinib, a drug approved for thyroid cancer but still experimental to treat other cancers….

expected to be treated in research studies over the next few weeks. via from AP :

NIH director Francis Collins told the Associated Press that each week the shutdown continues, the NIH hospital will have to turn away 200 patients, 30 of them children, seeking to enroll in new studies—often for last-resort treatments after they’ve exhausted all other options.

Just saying.

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