Sunday, August 18, 2013

Guinea Pigs

This is post 2 about life as a pharmaceutical volunteer.  Read the first post here.

This morning, I had to eat an enormous breakfast within 20 minutes.  Then I had to take the drug dose. This breakfast was HUGE and very greasy.  There were 3 fried eggs, 2 hash browns, 3 pieces of bacon, two pieces of toast with 2 tablespoons of butter and a cup of whole milk.  First off, I hate fried eggs.  I used the bacon to disguise the taste and texture somewhat, but I did actually gag once and almost gagged multiple times.  The hash browns were mushy from so much grease, and the one cup of milk was not nearly enough liquid to wash it down.  In the 20th minute, I had to stuff the rest of the toast in my mouth.  My food monitor mercifully signed me off even though I could not possibly swallow the toast for another few seconds.  This breakfast and dose are the only real requirements.  For $4500, I ate a greasy slimy super high fat breakfast with no extra flavor enhancers (no salt/pepper, jelly, juice).  That's actually quite an accomplishment!

For four hours after our dose, we stay at one long table so that our blood can be drawn one after each other every thirty minutes and so that they can monitor us for adverse affects or sabotage like vomiting the drug.  Guinea pig number 1 is an African American woman, 2 is a white male, 3 is also a white male, 4 is an African American male, 5 is a Hispanic woman, 6 is me, and 7 is another African American male.  I think I am the oldest at 38, but a couple of others are close in their thirties.  This is a pretty typical group.  Even though we are a small group, the mix is actually very representative of all the studies.  There is a good mixture of human beings in this lab.  There are people here who do this for a living.  Number 5 travels to Fargo, ND amongst other places just to be involved in medical studies for money.  There are others who are students, parents, and plenty of self-employed people.  People have a range of reasons for wanting this money.  I met a woman who does a study annually to pay for a trip to Vegas.  Many people see this as a boost, or a student loan that they won't have to pay back.  There are also those that seem like they probably aren't skilled to do much else or maybe too lazy.  There are people who see jail as a part of their life cycle.  Whatever their reason, everyone is treated with respect and a sense of humor.  There is no theft.  When we check in, they document electronics.  If someone DID steal my computer, they can't just leave and there is an exit search to make sure you aren't taking home towels or needles or someone else's computer.  Therefore, there just is not a problem with theft and so no one treats anyone with suspicion.  We are all here to just get ahead a little.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I am extraordinarily careful with money.  I budget and plan and then make sure there is a cushion in case my budget and plan are sabotaged by life as we know happens.  I started Green CHAI, the Ranch 6 months ago.  I refuse to pay myself through the organization until it is more on its feet.  I have been paying the bills with my organizing skills, but soon, once I have animals, I know trips to Austin might become difficult or impossible.  It is time to prepare.

I have volunteered for a medical research study at PPD in Austin.  I have volunteered here before.  It is a clean, professional, secure, and friendly place.  The word volunteer is usually used for work that one does out of the kindness of your heart.  The word volunteer here means I get all of the information about a research study and it is up to me to join voluntarily or leave at any time.  These studies have pharmaceutical company sponsors.  These studies offer large financial compensation.  The study I have chosen and qualified for consists of 12 overnight stays and 2 out-patient visits.  I will be compensated $4500.  My study involves a drug that is already on the market in a powder form that patients add to water and drink.  This form apparently tastes awful so they are testing the drug in pill form.  We are all healthy volunteers.  This drug is used in very ill patients who retain excess iron after transplant.  They take a dose daily.  We take a reduced single dose three times spaced out every 8 days so that each dose washes out.  We have our blood drawn and vitals measured.  Our blood is examined to see how much drug stays with us for how long.

This is "Day 9" according to my clipboard.  We actually started on "Day -14."  We began taking low doses of iron just to boost our levels a little.  We were initially screened for general health with a full blood panel, ECG, and questionnaire.  This particular study requires levels to be within a very narrow range...  which means, I am within a range that is particularly healthy.  We checked in on "Day -1" and they ran us through another round of preliminary blood work as well as screened for drugs and alcohol, blood pressure, etc.  Our group was 11 people that day.  The levels are so narrow for this study that 4 of us got sent home that day.  These people are healthy, just not within the narrow parameters that the drug sponsors want.  They want to be able to see any fluctuations in change from a narrow range of persons.

Day 1, we were given our dose.  We check in 3 times and stay for 4 nights each time.  So this dose is our first of three.  Each dose is given with a different amount of food.  My first dose, I got no breakfast. It was sad, but I survived.  It did not even vaguely affect me.  Our second dose will be tomorrow morning.  This time, I get a high fat breakfast of 3 eggs, 3 pieces of bacon, toast w butter, milk and juice.  I have to eat every single bit.  That is the only meals that they care about.  They can measure side effects and different absorption rates with the different dosing meals.  My dose on "Day 19" will include a low fat breakfast.

While I am here I have computer and TV time.  LOTS of computer and TV time.  I watch my clipboard and show up for blood draws and meals as I am scheduled.  Dinner is at 18:20.  There are clocks everywhere.  I am hungry.  The food isn't great, but I don't starve.