In a real Clinical Trial, doctors use a very large number of people, usually, but not always, divided into two groups. One group gets the medicine being tested, and the other group gets fake medicine, called a placebo. At the end of the trial, if the people getting the real medicine have improved considerably more than the group getting the placebo, the medicine is assumed to be the cause of the improvement. That’s a good thing!
They use such large numbers of people to conduct these trials, because there are always going to be unforeseen situations that influence the effectiveness of the medicine for some people. Maybe a few of the subjects have an undiagnosed disease that makes even the best of medicines not work. Or maybe some of them are under a lot of stress that ruins their results.
When you see a new medicine being talked about with glowing praise of its effectiveness, you have to be very cautious about getting all excited about it. I have seen reports like that where the trial only had 16 people in it. That only gives doctors a hint that a certain medicine might be helpful. It’s just not enough people to tell you much.
That’s the problem with trying to find the right medicine for me, or any other PWP. We are, in a very real sense, our own Clinical Trial. The last time I was on Requip, I was terribly bloated, with horrible stomach cramps and gas. So, the Neurologist took me off of it, and he put me on Zelepar. That medicine dissolved under the tongue, so it doesn’t bother the digestive system. My stomach improved tremendously. The question is, was that because of the Zelepar, or was it because, that same week, my Gastroenterologist changed the prescriptions I was taking for my stomach? Also, my symptoms were not alleviated as well when I was on the Zelepar — BUT I had strep throat most of the time I was trying it, without knowing I was that sick.
There’s no way to be sure, is there, with more than one medicine being changed at the same time, and with me being sick, too? I talked with my Neurologist yesterday about this, and the fact that I had gone back to 1 Requip pill a day for several days, because I ran out of the Zelepar samples before my appointment. Even though I had been on the Requip for several days, my stomach was doing just fine.
So, Dr. S. has prescribed another month of Zelepar, to give it a fair trial at helping my PD symptoms. If I am still not getting as good a results with it as I was the Requip, I am to add the old dosage of 3 times a day of Requip to the Zelepar, which I take 2 times a day. I don’t see Dr. S. for 6 more weeks, to try to give me a chance to tell what is going to work best for me.
Parkinson’s Disease is different from many diseases, where there is some MRI or blood test that will tell the doctor what is helping, and what is not. With PD, it really is up to me. I have to be the judge for myself if the Neurologist has prescribed the right medicine and the right dosage. Then he bases my prescriptions on his vast experience with many other PWP he has treated.
But it still boils down to a Clinical Trial of one – ME!