Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Different Kind of Clinical Study

In my professional life, I write about drug development. In my private life, I write about prosopagnosia. Those two worlds intersected last week when my husband, Chuck, completed a six-month clinical study about face blindness at the University of British Columbia/Vancouver General Hospital Eye Care Centre.

Although I'm accustomed to reporting on clinical trials of drug candidates, whether successes or failures, the study in which Chuck participated was very different, consisting of computer-based "face training" modules that he watched for 30 minutes, three times a week, over a three-month period. During a control period, he was exposed to a variety of faces, both new and repetitive, while watching 30-minute segments of a British television detective drama three times a week. At his post-testing, the researchers observed slight improvements in his ability to recognize faces -- a hopeful sign, though not an indication that he'll suddenly be able to enter a crowded party and pick out the faces of close friends.

Although the face training study did not involve medications -- not during this round, at least -- I was struck by the parallels between its design and the many drug trials conducted each year across a variety of indications. Talking with researchers throughout the trial period and during post-testing also hammered home the incredible wealth of knowledge that patients and their families bring to a study based on months or years of living with a given condition.

I shared those thoughts in a blog post for BioWorld Today. I invite you to read that post, entitled Patient Experience Still Undervalued in Regulating Drugs.

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