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Chasing Medical Miracles: The Promise and Perils of Clinical Trials Paperback – May 25, 2010

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Enjoy this bracing tour through the history, horror, and headaches of clinical trials, described by a guide with both a detached delivery and knowledgeable perspective. Former Newsday and Baltimore Sun reporter O'Meara, a Type I diabetic, signed up for a trial offering a possible cure, so he may be more than a little invested in how trials work. But his self-interest is a compelling element as he surveys a $24-billion-a-year industry that affects the lives of 20 million Americans. His investigation briskly sails through the interests that spark clinical trials, the money that pays for them and the bonanza of cash and/or equipment and medications for developing countries where researchers find it cheaper to recruit trial subjects. Best and most sweetly, however, the book delves into the human guinea pigs, such as gene therapy trial participant whose death raised questions about government oversight and the self-interest of the lead researcher. O'Meara presents lessons from a medical front that offers something more important than success or failure—hope. I'm still able to say, 'At least I tried.' O'Meara notes. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Readers who assume that the trials only occur at academic medical centers will be surprised by the author’s findings. As they multiply and grow wildly expensive―up to $500 million for a single drug―pharmaceutical companies are hiring clinical-research organizations, profit-making enterprises that recruit subjects, pay them and perform studies in their own facilities. These organizations continue to migrate overseas to save money and escape FDA oversight… [O’Meara] does a capable job of revealing alarming problems that must be addressed.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Chasing Medical Miracles tells the truth about the byzantine world of clinical trials. O'Meara exposes the ethics of medical research both in the U.S. and abroad. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how new medicines are developed.” ―Joe Graedon, M.S., and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D., authors of The People's Pharmacy

“This travelogue of ‘the most dangerous part of medical discovery' moves from O'Meara's own experience as a research subject--ranging from terror to euphoria--to a broader exploration of the ethics and economics of clinical trials. He describes a landscape populated by brave and often desperate patients, whose heroism is integral to finding tomorrow's cures.” ―Robin Marantz Henig, author of Pandora's Baby: How the First Test Tube Babies Sparked the Reproductive Revolution

“In the ethically murky world of clinical trials, Alex O'Meara's book is an illumination. Whether probing the use of Third World people to test U.S. drugs, or revealing that the goal of clinical trials is not to cure anyone but to obtain data, Chasing Medical Miracles is educational in a valuable and troubling way.” ―Stephen P. Kiernan, author of Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (June 3, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802719902
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802719904
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,111,094 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D_shrink VINE VOICE on August 16, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is written in an easy to read narrative style with only 224pp of its total of 263pp taken up by the narrative with rest being reference pages and an index. The references and web pages mentioned throughout the book were current and helpful for those interested in clinical trial industry.

The author intertwines the factual evidence with his own personal experience in undergoing an experimental treatment for the rather severe type of Type I Diabetes he has. Although some people reviewing the work felt is was not coherent and laid out in a strictly time sequenced manner, I found that the author's first person anecdotes added to the overall story.

Mr. O'Meara begins by explaining the basic elements of all clinical trials beginning with randomization of the study populace, whether the study is singly-blinded where the participant doesn't know if he is getting the new treatment or only a placebo, and double-blinded where neither the study administrators nor the study subject are aware of who is getting what drug. The author goes on to describe many different trials covering quite a few different types of diseases and the differences between Phase I, the earliest trials through Phase IV trials [ which occur after approval by the FDA and for which additional information is still requested from the populace using the drug on a clinical basis].
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Format: Hardcover
As a diabetic author Alex O'Meara had given up hope for a cure and for thirty years had to take two or more shots of insulin daily. But in 2004 he signed up for a clinical trial involving an experimental transplant - and his experience led to an investigation of the industry in CHASING MEDICAL MIRACLES; THE PROMISE AND PERILS OF CLINICAL TRIALS. It's the first book to offer a behind-the-scenes view of clinical trails and how they operate and are funded, and is key for any medical student and consumer who wishes to understand their organization and importance.
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Format: Hardcover
Chasing Medical Miracles
Nicely Balanced Coverage of a Little Known Part of Modern Medicine, October 14, 2009
Our local public library had put Chasing Medical Miracles out in their new books display just as I was finishing testing for eligibility in a double blind study. The drug I had a 50-50 chance of getting (the other chance would be a powerless placebo) holds the potential for delaying or eliminating the possibility of developing breast cancer. My risk level is above average as I have a sister currently battling the disease. Obviously, a book discussing "promises and perils of clinical trials" was an immediate draw.

Though it may sound strange to say about a somewhat academic book with 27 pages of footnotes and a 9 page index, reading it was a pleasure. O'Meara provides some solid research along with personal anecdotes, a very readable combination. Best of all, he did not come off as a shill for the many corporations, hospitals, clinics and individual researchers and physicians involved in research, nor did he pen a strident screed against these same interests. Instead, there is a wealth of information about how studies are conducted, some surprising--and, yes, sometimes disturbing--facts about the globalization of studies, and an overall picture of how important ongoing research of this type is to continued medical discoveries and treatment.

Overall--an important read for anyone interested in medical science, as well as for any of us contemplating entering a trial.

Oh, and yes, I did sign up for the trial that will involve taking either a placebo or a rather powerful drug for the next five years. I will not be compensated for participation in the study, but the drugs and ongoing follow up tests related to the study will be paid for. Small price to pay if it will help others who might be saved from the rigors of treatment my sister continues to face as her cancer continues to metastisize.
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Format: Hardcover
Twenty-million people in the U.S. are enrolled in clinical trials, up 300% in the last ten years. Some volunteer to get free medical screenings, others for cash, and a few for altruistic reasons.

I feel bad for the author, burdened with chronic diabetes and hoping for improved health. O'Meara attempts to improve his health through participation in a pertinent trial. Unfortunately, the benefits soon faded, along with his marriage, leaving him nearly at his initial medical starting point.

Further, it is easy to understand why a clinical trial participant would expand involvement to include writing about the topic. Unfortunately, O'Meara lacks both the high-level perspective and understanding of basic statistics/human variability to well handle the assignment. Instead, he (and we) rely largely on his own experience and anecdotes from other situations, and the result lacks impact, credibility, and direction.

Much better alternatives on health care innovation in general include Marci Angell's "The Truth About Drug Companies," and John Abramson's "Overdosed America."
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