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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
We are living in the age of clinical trials, where millions of dollars are spent on research for the prevention, cure, or amelioration of a host of diseases. It's a complicated interaction that involves clinical research teams, whose passion for science comes in conflict with the realities of the massive expenses required to maintain research labs; pharmaceutical companies, whose eagerness to collaborate with researchers rests on potential giant financial gains; and patients, whose only hope for cures may lie in the unproven medications (or placebos) they will take.
Human Trials describes in fascinating detail the high stakes universe of clinical science. The author, Susan Quinn, follows one Harvard University physician, Howard Weiner, whose results with lab mice show the potential for bringing multiple sclerosis patients into long-term remission. We are introduced to a crew of dedicated scientists who shared his early successes and to the subsequent roller coaster ride, involving everything from the struggle to find the optimal dose -- how much of the drug can they give before the side effects outweigh the benefits -- to the issues of physicians faking records ("dry-labbing"), to the heartbreaking news that the placebo in a trial works as well as the experimental drug, which also seems to work quite well.
The heart of the book is an ongoing exploration of the profound contradiction that exists between research and business. The author examines what happens when academic ethics, which mandate that knowledge be shared, and the proprietary mentality of the profit sector, which insists that information be held back for the sake of future profits, are brought together in a state of mutual dependency. This is a gracefully written, accessible, informative, and thought-provoking book that illuminates the brave new world of medical science and commerce. (Judith Estrine)