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Several of my friends hate flossing their teeth. They go months without flossing, which I think is pretty gross. But then an odd thing happens. About a week before their dental appointment, these same friends will start flossing. By the time they reach their appointment, they have unusually clean gums (though dentists can see through this fairly well, I’m told). On a different tone, some family members have a condition called White Coat Syndrome. When they go to the doctor’s office, their nervousness causes a spike in blood pressure or heart rate, giving deceptively high readings. What’s going on? Can psychological effects like these be used to our advantage?


The Hawthorne Effect is a term used to describe a very beneficial effect seen in clinical trials. This is named after a productivity study in Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric factory in the 1920s and 30s. The study was attempting to discover a link between the amount of light and productivity of workers. When increasing the amount of light, productivity increased. Strangely, when lowering the amount of light, productivity also increased! Researchers attributed the increase in productivity to the workers simply being observed. In research, we tend to see increased positive results for patients simply because we are observing them in a study.


Hawthorne Works


Let’s analyze a 2014 sleep study. Researchers measured 195 patients’ amount and quality of sleep at night. 81 days later, before any medical intervention, researchers measured the patients again. They found that patients slept an average of 30 minutes longer per night and had an increased quality of sleep. This was before any medication or intervention! The change was attributed to the Hawthorne Effect.

Patients at ENCORE Research Group comment on the excellent quality of care they receive during clinical trials. Instead of seeing a doctor for a few minutes once a year, patients see doctors and medical staff for much longer and are encouraged or required to call and report changes in health. Quality of care is increased and makes for a pleasant and healthful patient experience. Patients in clinical trials may also experience more observation time from medical professionals due to the attention to detail that clinical trials require for data integrity in studies.

Finally, patients are found to have better adherence to medication requirements while undergoing clinical trials. The increased emphasis on accuracy and adherence results in better patient outcomes, even when they are part of a placebo or standard-of-care group.

In clinical trials, we see these benefits and must account for them. Randomization of patients helps spread the effect. Everyone sees increased baseline results on average; we are interested to find out if those receiving investigational treatment do even better. Join a clinical trial today and experience the Hawthorne Effect for yourself… and floss your teeth!

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

Benedetti, F., Carlino, E., & Piedimonte, A. (2016). Increasing uncertainty in CNS clinical trials: the role of placebo, nocebo, and Hawthorne effects. Lancet Neurol, 15, 736-47. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(16)00066-1

Cizza, G., Piaggi, P., Rother, K. I., Csako, G., & Sleep Extension Study Group. (2014). Hawthorne effect with transient behavioral and biochemical changes in a randomized controlled sleep extension trial of chronically short-sleeping obese adults: implications for the design and interpretation of clinical studies. PLoS One, 9(8), e104176. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0104176

ENCORE Research Group. (2020, October 14). Hawthorne effect.[Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DH7jwqFlyw

Mayo, E. (1993). The human problems of an industrial civilization. The Macmillan Company. 

McCarney, R., Warner, J., Iliffe, S., Van Haselen, R., Griffin, M., & Fisher, P. (2007). The Hawthorne Effect: a randomised, controlled trial. BMC medical research methodology, 7(1), 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2288-7-30


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In science and medicine we measure if and how well things work using measurements. This idea may sound simple, but it’s often a challenge to find out exactly what to measure – and how. We typically measure things that can change – things that can vary. We call these things variables. Variables can be broadly split into two major categories: dependent and independent. Either type of variable can change, the difference is what changes them.

Independent variables are changed by researchers, particularly in clinical (patient) research. This variable in a medical research study is what we are testing. The changes to an independent variable may include dose, length, and method of drug delivery. We evaluate independent variables that may change outcomes of the people in a study – but sometimes they do not. In order to understand the effect of medicines, researchers test the medicine against a control. The control could be a placebo (something that has no effect) or a standard of care (the current normal medicine).

Dependent variables are what we expect to change during a trial. In a clinical research, we may expect changes in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, disease symptoms, mortality, and other categories. In a well designed study, we assess changes in the dependent variables related to changes in the independent variables. There is always the chance that the dependent variables are changed by other things, however. A patient might take a new blood pressure medicine but retire from their job. The reduced stress could decrease their blood pressure even if the medicine did not. 

Because of individual changes in people’s circumstances, researchers use statistics to find trends. If your blood pressure medicine was only studied on the one person above, you might have erroneous results. Instead clinical trials have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of participants. With large populations these little differences get figured out. One person might retire, but another might get fired, having an opposite effect. Altogether, statistical analysis can help discover if any changes in the dependent variable are due to the effects of the independent ones.

Chart 1. Each amount of Rosuvastatin on the left corresponds to an amount of LDL on the right. The dependent variable (LDL levels) change in proportion to the amount of independent variable (rosuvastatin) taken by the patient.


Other variables exist in a study. The most concerning of these variables is known as a confounding variable. This is a variable that can undermine the study at a fundamental level. A confounding variable can be introduced by researchers and might include things like placing all overweight patients in the 10 mg group and all underweight people in the placebo group. ENCORE Research Group (and any legitimate clinical research group) avoids confounding variables and bias by randomizing patients. Patients are randomized through an impartial method (usually a computer program) which will randomly place patients into any of the test groups. By randomizing patients, we can avoid the most concerning confounding variables and make sure we are studying what we intend to!

To learn more about the clinical trial process, call our Recruitment Team at (904) 730-0166.

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

Schweiger, C. (2003). Clinical trials with rosuvastatin: efficacy and safety of its use. Italian Heart Journal: Official Journal of the Italian Federation of Cardiology, 4, 33S-46S. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14983745/

Stewart, P. A. (1978). Independent and dependent variables of acid-base control. Respiration physiology, 33(1), 9-26. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/nichsr/stats_tutorial/section2/mod4_variables.html


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My buddy recently bought an e-bike on the internet. It has an enormous battery, goes pretty fast, and is salt air resistant – an important feature at the beach. It’s the perfect bike. Or at least it would be, except it is still on a dock in China, waiting for a cargo ship to deliver it. The bike is no good if it can’t get to where it needs to be. The same is true of drugs: a drug is only as good as its delivery system.

Usually, the “buyer” of a drug is a cell somewhere in the body. Sometimes they are in specific areas, and sometimes they’re all over the place. Regardless, getting the drug to the target cells has always been a challenge. Our main delivery routes currently are swallowing, inhalation, skin absorption, and injection. Each has different uses, benefits, and drawbacks, but the route isn’t enough. Ingested medicines, for example, need to survive the harsh stomach acid but still be absorbable by the intestines. Injected medications are cleared by the liver at high speeds, reducing the effectiveness of a drug. Effective drug delivery means getting medicine to the right place at the right time, intact.

One of the best-known developments in medications has been the use of mRNA in COVID vaccines. Actually getting the delicate molecules inside cells for an immune response was one of the unsung heroes of this vaccine. Scientists implemented lipid nanoparticles to get the job done. This was no easy challenge. Lipid nanoparticles are teeny packages of fat that protect the mRNA vaccine until it can get into target cells. They are small and strong to enter cells without disintegrating in the bloodstream. The development of lipid nanoparticles was just in time for the COVID pandemic and has shown to be very effective. The drawbacks are that they must be produced perfectly every time for billions of doses and must be kept extremely cold, at least currently.

A much less widespread development has been the creation of microneedles. These are already in use for cosmeceutical applications. Microneedles are generally smaller than one or two millimeters and don’t puncture the skin all the way to the blood layer. This allows for simpler delivery and at-home administration of some medicines. Microneedles can also be coated with a dry version of medicines, allowing for shelf-stable drug delivery. This could be particularly helpful in areas with inadequate infrastructure and a lack of medical personnel.

Researchers are developing many other new and exciting delivery methods. Targeted organ delivery is the practice of delivering medicine to specific organs. One example is coating a medicine in a urine-resistant coating for injection into the bladder. Cellular delivery uses living cells to carry medication to the target site. These living cells may be red blood cells or beneficial cyanobacteria.  Attaching medicine to red blood cells can help drugs resist the powerful cleanup mechanism of the liver. This may allow for lower doses to have bigger effects. Attaching to beneficial spirulina platensis cyanobacteria may help medicines cross the stomach intact and deliver medicine straight to the intestines. This can allow for targeted organ delivery or for longer release of medicines. Finally, some scientists are experimenting with physically squeezing cells. This opens temporary pores for direct drug delivery. Such a system could enable scientists to deliver medicine to billions of cells per minute.

All these exciting new delivery systems will have a big impact. Medicines of the future may be delivered in lower doses and with fewer side effects. We can also expect new uses for old medicines, as they will be able to be used in new ways and able to target new organs. Several of our clinical trials at Encore Research Group use these new methods. It’s an exciting time to help be on the cutting edge of what new medicine delivery will look like in the future. With luck, these new delivery methods will open new doors for medicines to help save lives and heal conditions. With even more luck, my buddy might get his bike by the end of the year.

Written by: Benton Lowey-Ball, B.S. Behavioral Neuroscience



Sources:

May, M. (2022). Why drug delivery is the key to new medicines. Nature Medicine, 28(6), 1100-1102.

National Institute of Health, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. (October, 2016). Drug delivery systems. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.nibib.nih.gov/science-education/science-topics/drug-delivery-systems-getting-drugs-their-targets-controlled-manner


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Ahoy ye mateys! Have you ever wondered which enemy was the most dangerous to sailors during the 1700’s? James Lind, a Royal Navy surgeon, described a foe which “proved a more destructive enemy, and cut off more valuable lives, than the united efforts of the French and Spanish arms.” In order to conquer this threat, Lind employed a brand new weapon. This weapon was previously unknown to science, and has now been used to defeat countless foes. The enemy was scurvy, and the weapon was a clinical trial.

May 20, 2022  marks the 275th anniversary of that first clinical trial. Scurvy could lead to muscle pain, gum disease, fatigue, jaundice, and death. Remedies at the time varied widely and only anecdotal, word-of-mouth evidence for them was available. Every sailor who was afflicted with scurvy sought a cure, but the overall disease was caught in the doldrums without a solution for 150 years. Lind had bigger ambitions. His big insight wasn’t trying to treat just a few individuals for scurvy, but instead trying to solve the problem of scurvy on the scale of public health. Though he only had 12 participants in that first trial, how Lind compared different remedies showed his big-picture thinking. He sought not to give relief to just those 12 patients, but to quantify and share his results to cure the whole of the Royal Navy.

In this effort Lind laid the groundwork of the modern clinical research study. He started with a set of 12 patients with conditions “as similar as I could have them.” He controlled extraneous variables, giving all patients the same diet during the study and keeping them on the same boat. He split them into 6 random conditions:

  • A quart of cider per day
  • Elixir vitriol (sulfuric acid and alcohol), 3x daily 
  • 2 spoonfuls of vinegar, 3x daily
  • ½ pint of seawater per day
  • 2 oranges and 1 lemon per day
  • Bigness of nutmeg (a medicinal paste made of herbs and spices)

The results were clear; citrus gave quick and significant relief.  Importantly, Lind didn’t leave his findings high and dry. He recorded and reported what he saw. Probably the most important aspect of Lind’s clinical trial was that he looked at the results in an unbiased way. He wrote extensively on the need to remove personal and societal bias:

“it is no easy matter to root out old prejudices, or to overturn opinions which have acquired an establishment of time, custom, and great authorities; it became therefore requisite for this purpose, to exhibit a full and impartial view of what has hitherto been published on scurvy.”

Today the same core ideas guide clinical trials, but there are many more safeguards for participants. A good clinical trial today is grounded in science, provides benefits to patients that should outweigh any risks, and treats patients with respect. Critically, clinical trials have informed consent; all participants join voluntarily and must have full knowledge of any risks before signing up. Trials also have oversight from Institutional Review Boards and have medical staff on site to help with any adverse reactions. Following Lind’s example, clinical trials also target specific conditions, have randomized patients, control conditions (as much as possible), and dutifully record and report their findings.

Though his aim was to blow scurvy out of the water, Lind ended up making waves in how scientists solve medical problems in general. His quantitative, balanced approach gave the world a system to tackle medical problems. On this International Clinical Trials Day we can help keep up the bounty of Lind’s legacy by volunteering as a clinical research trial participant and send some diseases to Davy Jones’ Locker!

Written by Benton Lowey-Ball, BS Behavioral Neuroscience



Lind, J. (1753). A treatise of the scurvy: in three parts, containing an inquiry into the nature, causes, and cure, of that disease, together with a critical and chronological view of what has been published on the subject. Bulletin of the World Health Organization: the International Journal of Public Health 2004; 82 (10): 793-796.From https://www.jameslindlibrary.org/lind-j-1753/




Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world in May to recognize the day that James Lind started what is often considered the first clinical trial aboard a ship on May 20, 1747.

Here’s the story…

Also included in this month’s MedEvidence! Radio

  • Why we do Clinical Trials
  • Phases of Clinical Trials
  • Why you may want to participate in clinical trials

MedEvidence! Radio is a monthly live broadcast from WSOS 103.9 FM / 1170 AM with Kevin Geddings from St. Augustine, Florida. Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals.  Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital/Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/Cornell Medical Center.  On a personal note, Dr. Koren has a life-long interest in history, technology, Public Health, and music. He has written two musical plays.


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MedEvidence! Radio is a monthly live broadcast from WSOS 103.9 FM / 1170 AM with Kevin Geddings and Dr. Michael Koren from St. Augustine, Florida. This month, Dr. Erich Schramm joins the conversation in discussing whether patients benefit from clinical research and, if so how?

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.

Dr. Erich Schramm, MD, is a board-certified family physician in Ponte Vedra, Florida, with 22 years of experience. He is currently a principal investigator with ENCORE Research Group.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this episode, Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick wrap up their discussion on how clinical trials find the truth as well as truth vs. faith and the conclusion of lady tasting tea. Could she actually tell whether the milk or tea was put in first?

Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this episode, Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick walk through the history of Clinical Trials. From Biblical stories of Daniel through the smallpox pandemic to our present COVID pandemic. How far have we come and where do we go from here?

Some of what you will learn:

  • History of Clinical Research
    • Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Newgate Prison
    • Cotton Mather & Onesimus
  • Current Vaccine Trials
    • Chickenpox
    • Shingles
    • Covid
    • Flu
    • RSV
  • Future of COVID

Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In this second episode, Dr. Michael Koren, New York Central High School alumni, and Michelle McCormick take us back to high school minus having that awkward conversation about asking your date to prom.  Listen to find out what your high school classes have to do with clinical trials.

Some of what you will learn:

  • What makes a good hypothesis
  • Statistical concepts
  • Statistical methods involved in carrying out a study
  • The vocabulary of clinical research
  • History of clinical research
    • Newgate Prison
    • Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar
    • Pepsi vs. Coke

Dr. Michael Koren is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!





In a four-part series on What are Clinical Trials & Why are they important, in this first episode Dr. Michael Koren and Michelle McCormick talk about The Science of Clinical Trials, What makes a good Clinical Trial, good?

What do these things have in common?

  • R.A. Fisher
  • Lady Tasting Tea
  • Truth vs Faith
  • Experiments
  • Clinical Trials

Dr. Michael Koren, is a practicing cardiologist and CEO at ENCORE Research Group. He has been the principal investigator of 2000+ clinical trials while being published in the most prestigious medical journals. Dr. Koren received his medical degree cum laude at Harvard Medical School and completed his residency in internal medicine with a fellowship in cardiology at New York Hospital / Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center/ Cornell Medical Center.


Prefer to listen to the podcast without video? You can do that below!



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October 28, 2020 Research in General

There are many reasons someone may think it’s scary to participate in a clinical trial. However, if you become more informed about how clinical trials work then those fears will vanish! Below are some common misconceptions  about clinical trial participation.

“I won’t be able to quit if I change my mind about participating.”

Many believe that once you sign the informed consent papers to participate, you are locked in until the trial is complete. This is a common misconception. Clinical trials rely on participants who volunteer. You are always able to leave a clinical trial. After you have taken an investigational injection or drug, you are allowed to leave. However, it is important to be open and honest with your clinical team about leaving the trial.

Research participants are guinea pigs.

Thinking about yourself strapped down in a lab while people poke you with needles sounds like a scene right out of a horror movie. It is far from the truth. There are strict guidelines for each clinical trial, and all require special attention to health concerns. There are also ethical and moral guidelines put in place by a committee for each trial, called the Institutional Review Board (IRB). This is a committee made up of health professionals to ensure each trial is ethical. There is a robust screening and preclinical testing process which can take up to six years to complete before a drug is ever given to a patient.

Will it Hurt?

This depends on the type of clinical trial you are participating in. Each process is different. The trials can include taking an investigational pill, undergoing a new procedures or getting an injection. One thing you can be sure of, your health will be closely monitored and you will be aware of all risks and procedures before participating in the trial. You will review and sign the “informed consent” document. This will ensure you know all the risks. The document ensures the patient knows everything involved and is free to choose whether or not to participate. If you ever feel unsure, do not be hesitant to ask your provider any questions!

Will I experience major side effects?

There is some risk when participating in a clinical trial.An investigational drug goes through a robust testing process. Before is is given to a patient, the results must suggest that it is highly likely to be safe and effective. Patients are closely monitored once given an investigational drug to ensure their safety. The informed consent and IRB both take part in ensuring the safety and ethics of every clinical trial.

 

 


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We asked, “What motivates you to participate in clinical trials?” With over 160 responses, the answer is clear. People who participate in clinical trials are dedicated to helping others by improving medicine for future generations.

We also found that very few were participating in order to receive the stipend for time and travel. This says a lot about the type of people who are willing to participate in clinical trials. They are in it for the cutting edge treatment, and the need to help others.

There is truly only one way to improve healthcare, and that is to participate in clinical trials. Thank you to everyone who responded to our survey, and everyone who participates in these trials.


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On a sailing ship in 1747, twelve sailors who had begun the voyage feeling fine were overcome with fatigue.  Their gums were swollen and sore, making it difficult to eat.  Their teeth were falling out.  Their legs were swollen and purple from bruising.

 

Dr. James Lind was a passenger on that ship, and he set out to find the cause.  He set up what may have been the first clinical nutrition experiment.  He decided on six groups of treatments, 2 sailors in each group:

 

  1. drank one quart of cider a day
  2. gargled with sulfuric acid
  3. had two spoonfuls of vinegar, 3 times a day
  4. drank ½ pint seawater a day
  5. drank barley water
  6. ate two oranges and 1 lemon a day

 

Within six days, the sailors who ate the oranges and lemon felt better and were able to work again.  The other sailors in the experiment felt worse.  The ill sailors were suffering from a lack of vitamin C, now known as Scurvy. They had plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables when they first set out on the voyage.  But fresh foods ran out on the long voyage, and they suffered symptoms from this lack. After this finding, sailors often brought lime juice aboard ship because it could be stored longer. This is how sailors earned the nickname “limey”.

 

1747 was well before the requirement of informed consent of the patient, detailed eligibility criteria, protocols and regulations, which are a foundation of today’s clinical research.  Nevertheless, it is an interesting example of a method of discovering the best treatment for a disabling condition.

 

Scientific minds are still seeking solutions for medical problems.  Modern clinical research is strictly regulated for the safety and well-being of the research volunteer.  Great progress has been made in medical science over the last decades.  This progress could not happen without dedicated volunteers. Participation in clinical trials can be a rewarding endeavor for both investigators and volunteers alike.

 

Written by: Julia Baker, RN, CCRC

Resources:
https://askabiologist.asu.edu
https://www.umass.edu/nibble/infofile/limey.html

 

 

 


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December 12, 2018 BlogResearch in General

Thank You for a Great Year!

 

As an ENCORE community member, we hope you have enjoyed hearing from us this year. Each month we strive to provide you with accurate information on health topics that are relevant to you and our enrolling studies. 2018 has been a momentous year for us and has seen complete many trials for novel medications that we believe will improve global health. We are thankful for dedicated volunteers like you that make this possible!

 

This month we would like to do something a little different and provide you with insight into clinical trials. A lack of clinical trial education is routinely cited as the number one barrier to enrolling trial participants. Clinical trials are required by the FDA to prove the safety and effectiveness of new medications and volunteer participants are necessary to complete these trials. We understand that this concept is often intimidating. However, there are several measures in place to make our trials as safe as possible, including:

  • Physicians in charge of all study activities
  • Pre-Clinical Testing
  • Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)
  • Informed Consent Forms
  • Routine Participant Labs and Clinical Assessments
  • Clinical Trial Data Safety Monitoring Boards

 

Investigational products are thoroughly studied during pre-clinical testing before the trials are designed and the first human participant is enrolled. Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars to bring medications to market and they want to be nearly certain that the medication will fulfill its intended purpose. However, volunteers are needed to complete the FDA clinical trials. When designing the trial protocols, participant safety is always the number one priority!

 

Every trial is overseen by an Institutional Review Board (IRB). The purpose of the IRB is to protect the rights and welfare of human research participants. The IRB evaluates the possible risks and benefits of the trial before it is allowed to open. They are also responsible for approving the trial protocol and the informed consent. Along with the consent form, a discussion with our medical staff allows you to make an informed decision on whether or not the trial is in your best interest. Lastly, participants in the study are continuously monitored for safety and there are many tests completed during the trials to alert researchers at the first sign of potentially serious side effects. We hope that every patient that has worked with us has felt that it has been a safe and positive experience!

 

Thank you again for helping us improve global health and find new ways to treat medical ailments! 2019 is going to be another exciting year at ENCORE Research and we hope to get the chance to work with everyone reading this letter.

 

Happy Holidays,
ENCORE Research


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Why do our volunteers want to participate in clinical trials?  Volunteers are often motivated by a combination of several reasons. Here are 6 of the top reasons to participate.

  1. The potential of finding relief from their symptoms

We can’t promise relief from symptoms due to placebo and efficacy of the medication being tested.  However, the Hawthorne Effect proves that patients who participate in a research trial have better outcomes than those not participating.

  1. To learn more about their condition

You might argue that to learn about a condition you can just look it up on the web, and we all do that.  However, often these websites can be misleading or provide the worst-case scenario results, which don’t apply to most of us. Another option is to ask your primary physician, and that is a good thing to do.  Unfortunately, physicians are often rushed or running behind and questions are forgotten.  Participating in a clinical trial provides you ample one on one time with a research professional and physician so that all your questions can be answered.

  1. Access to new cutting-edge treatments

When participating in a clinical trial, there is access to new cutting edge treatments that are not available yet to the public. There can even be access to medications that have been newly FDA approved, but are much too expensive to afford.  Study required medications are most often provided at no cost!

  1. Receiving medical care at no cost

Sponsors such as pharmaceutical companies, governments and foundations fund medical research through study grants. The grants fund local research sites for conducting the study so you don’t pay a thing.  In fact, we don’t even ask you for your insurance information!  Can you believe most studies compensate patients for time and travel?

  1. Making a difference

Clinical Trials help shape the future of medicine and healthcare.   Volunteer participation helps researchers discover more about health conditions and find better ways to treat them!

  1. Moral and emotional support

Having medical conditions that others don’t necessarily understand can make some people feel alienated.  When involved in research, support staff understand the patient’s condition and what they may be experiencing and can provide moral and emotional support.

We will do everything we can to help find a trial that is a good fit for interested volunteers.  New clinical trials are constantly enrolling so do not be discouraged if we don’t currently have the perfect trial for you.  The majority of volunteers who completed a clinical trial are interested in participating in another one, so call us and find out your reason to participate!

 


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At ENCORE Research Group it is our mission to help every patient that walks through our doors qualify for the clinical trial of their choice. Often times we get to experience the thrill of telling our patients that they successfully qualified and will soon enroll in the study. However, this is not always the case and we understand our patients’ frustration when they decide to commit to a trial only to later find out that they do not qualify. Here at ENCORE Research Group we were curious how this situation affected their thoughts about applying for future studies. This month, curiosity got the best of us and we reached out to some of our community members to find out!

Thomas recently came to Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research (JCCR) to have an evaluation for a high triglyceride and weight loss study.  Fortunately for Thomas, he was not eligible for the trial because his triglyceride level was too low.  Thomas stated “it’s good that I am healthy enough not to be in this research study.  But they are looking at another study that I may be interested in.” As you can see, Thomas was not discouraged that he did not qualify, but optimistic that he may qualify for a different study.

We also reached out to Latasha, who is new to research, and may qualify for a study that has a waiting list for interested participants.  When discussing with her how some patients are not eligible to join a trial, she stated “I would want to know why I did not qualify, but that would not prevent me from trying to get in another trial.” Fortunately for Latasha and all of our participants, ENCORE Research Group is very transparent about the screening process and explains exactly why they may have been ineligible. Hopefully she will receive a spot in the study she applied for!

Mark was passionate about participating in a Sjogren’s research trial but did not qualify.  He said “it’s not unusual for someone with Sjogren’s Disease not to qualify for studies with systemic therapies if they do not have the antibodies. But when you’re sick, your driving force is to get better for yourself and your family.  I tried the conventional way but it did not work for me.”  After doing more research on the specific clinical trial, Mark decided to pursue the FDA Expanded Access program. “It’s a relatively new program to help people get access to new medications.” Fortunately for Mark, he had the resources and insight to look into alternative treatment options.

We also asked an experienced researcher how she saw things. Linda Gray, site manager of the Nature Coast Clinical Research site in Inverness, Florida, has many gastrointestinal (GI) studies currently enrolling.  Linda acknowledges that “some of our patients are not eligible for a study because they have mild disease, and the sponsors are looking for moderate to severe disease.  If the disease is not measurable enough for objective data, we will not be able to tell if we’ve reversed it or slowed the progression.  Our NASH studies include a liver biopsy to determine the extent of the disease to see if the patient is eligible.” It is unfortunate that this can limit access to drugs for those in need, but we have to believe that obtaining clear and objective data will help a greater number of people in the future.

The reality is, every clinical trial is different and has unique qualifying criteria. The pharmaceutical companies that sponsor clinical trials create the criteria in order to make the strongest case possible to the FDA on the drug’s safety and efficacy. While we would love to involve every one of our community members that are interested, it is just not always possible. The good news is that all seven of our research sites are always getting new clinical trials to enroll in! So, just because you didn’t qualify the first time doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for the next one! We look forward to working with you in the ENCORE community.

 

 


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The practice of medicine has changed in major ways in recent years. Though many of these changes reflect good intentions, the real world consequences to patients often don’t match expectations. To understand this divide between reasonable intentions and the less salubrious reality from which we may collectively suffer, I’d like to share a recent anecdote that occurred at the airport when regulations ran amok.

During recent travel, I witnessed an unfortunate incident that you may have seen before. An airline gate agent stopped a member of our party and reprimanded her for carrying a small overnight suitcase, a computer bag and her pocketbook. The gate agent, working on behalf of the airline, stated that she had to follow FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) rules and only allow two bags on board even though the computer bag and pocket book were small. Unfortunately, when asked to “consolidate” the three bags into two, we had a problem. No bag really fit into any of the other bags. The agent wouldn’t “gate check” any of the bags so that we could pick it up when exiting the plane and running off to our next flight. Further, our discussion with the gate agent failed to alleviate our concern that, if checked to its “final destination,” we wouldn’t see a checked piece of luggage any time soon given the shortness of time for our connection.

The solution that followed satisfied no one. Over the next 10 minutes, embarking passengers stepped around the contents of the three bags which littered the entrance to the Jetway. At first, the gate agents ignored the situation, but as tempers flared due to the obstruction of foot traffic, an agent “helped” by aggressively stuffing the computer bag into the overnight bag. A busted zipper later, the bulging overnight bag limped down the Jetway led by a very unhappy customer.

Does this scenario prove airline excellence because the agents showed how well they can comply with government rules? Hardly! Most folks would conclude that this messy scenario wasn’t necessary. In complex situations, the empowerment of professionals to act judiciously given a set of circumstances leads to excellence. The above scenario required the gate agents to apply context while making an overall effort to comply with government regulations. Unfortunately an excellent result didn’t happen in this case.

Similarly, we face the issue of context and judicious interpretation every day in medicine. As a common example, computerized medical records, a well-intended effort to characterize complex information, often fail to convey the true story of a patient or the nuances that make each of us unique. Summarized, bullet point information can easily miss the point. The great composer Mozart famously observed that musical excellence doesn’t lie in the notes but actually in the space and timing in between the sounds. Medical excellence involves a similar concept. Health care providers must read “in between the lines” and understand and respond both to what is and isn’t stated.

What this concept means to the average patient depends on the circumstances. For example, some people with neck pain may need consideration for a heart condition (angina) whereas others should check in immediately for an MRI of the spine and others should book a massage. Distinguishing the underlying cause of the neck pain relies on both a description of the nature of the symptom and on understanding the quiescent pauses of relief between episodes of pain. Excellent clinicians make this distinction by asking the right questions. Excellence during the medical evaluations of headaches, arthritis, and memory problems, among other things, also require this same commitment to careful questioning.

Clinical research promotes excellence by demanding great attention to detail.  During research programs, physician investigators and their staff members must extensively analyze many aspects of our patients’ health.  This thorough analysis usually exceeds that which occurs at the time of general physician visits, a setting during which time pressed clinicians must limit their focus and move on to the next patient. Research also requires the deployment of state of the art technology. The combination of technology and attention to detail of symptoms, signs and lab values leads to an experience which most patients highly value and describe as a demonstration of medical excellence.

In sum, medical excellence involves more than compliance or automatically matching a disease with a drug. Medical excellence is a philosophy of understanding the needs of a patient and putting those needs in context through the development of an individual treatment plan. Clinical research promotes medical excellence by demanding a culture of detail and caring.


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Let’s not dance around the issue: for many years now, news sources like CBS, CNN, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker have called research volunteers guinea pigs.  You’ve probably said it yourself. I’m here today to tell you why we need to call research volunteers by another name: Heroes.

The term “guinea pig” is condescending to both volunteers and researchers. For volunteers, it takes away the enormity of their contribution by sounding like they have no choice in the matter. If you have ever taken a prescription medicine for any reason, even an antibiotic; someone has chosen to volunteer to make sure the medicine is safe and works. If medicines down the road are to work better, we need volunteers to keep agreeing to test them.

Calling subjects “guinea pigs” also disdains the research coordinators and doctors that supervise drugs trials. Before any volunteer is admitted into a trial, coordinators fully explain what the trial entails, making sure to answer any questions or concerns of the volunteer. If the volunteer agrees, they go through a screening process to make sure they are a good fit for the trial and that the trial is safe for them. During the trial, the volunteer tells the coordinator or doctor about any medical events, including colds, broken toes, or headaches. This is also for safety, and if anything happens, the volunteer is free to stop the study or change their mind about participating. Throughout the study, the volunteer’s health is closely monitored; patient safety is always first. If a volunteer decides they no longer want to be in a clinical trial, they can withdraw from the trial at any time and will not be coerced to stay.

Before any medicine hits the market it is tested for years, with data constantly being reviewed in between trials. New medicines will go through 3 – 4 clinical trials over many years, with safety and effectiveness being the top concerns.

So, why are volunteers not guinea pigs? Guinea pigs (or any animal for that matter) don’t willingly sign up to be a part of future healthcare that could save lives. Guinea pigs are cute, fat, fuzzy, and they eat their own poop (Coprophagy). But, they do not willingly agree to be part of a trial that could save lives down the road.

So I urge you, quit using the term guinea pig for volunteers, use the term hero instead! We can’t cure diseases without heroes.

If you have volunteered for a clinical trial before, YOU ARE A HERO! If you have never participated, become a research HERO today!

 


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Recently, I had my first experience as a clinical research volunteer. Going in, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but it was better than I thought!

I have Multiple Sclerosis. I also have asthma, arthritis, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, and migraines. I live with chronic pain, I’ve had multiple surgeries, and the list goes on. With all these illnesses and conditions I need prescription medications to function on a daily basis.

I’m your average Google symptoms and side effects checker. I think it’s very important since I’m on over 10 daily medications to treat my health issues. I see multiple specialists; and I can’t expect them to research and remember all the ways those medicines interact with the others I’m already on. So I try to be smart about it.

Being a research volunteer has some bad stigmas attached to it. Some people think you might grow a second head or something! I’m here to tell you, don’t believe those outlandish tales! Without volunteers like me, the drugs I’m taking that stop horrible leg cramps or make my migraines back off- wouldn’t have made it to the pharmacy shelves.

When a friend of mine mentioned that her daughter works at Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research, for some reason that statement humanized the whole idea of prescription medications for me.

So I googled them and found they had SO many opportunities for many of the medical problems I currently have. I filled out an online form to be contacted, and a bubbly, friendly lady called me. I wasn’t even sure what to say but she dove right in talking about the different issues I mentioned on the form. She gave me an idea of what they were looking for in the studies, and I answered her questions. It was easy. In no time she had singled out a study I might be perfect for and set up an appointment. We talked through most of it over the telephone and she had it all together when I arrived. It turned out I WAS the perfect fit. It was a study that only required me to come to 3 appointments over a 6 week period and paid me $400. Wow! Did that extra cash come in handy! While I was there everyone treated me like an old friend.

I am doing my part to help put good drugs on the shelves for myself and millions of other people.

Now I know what it’s like to be a hero.

Tracy


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As a proven clinical research organization, we take every precaution to assure the safety of and maximize the value for our research volunteers. Qualified doctors, nurses and study coordinators on staff provide support and care throughout the research trial. Participation is always voluntary. We appreciate the time and effort that research volunteers bring to this important process.

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