Doctors needlessly order blood transfusions for cancer patients in order to qualify them for drug studies

Sunday, October 24, 2010 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: blood transfusions, clinical trials, health news

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(NaturalNews) A new report published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals a shocking trend in the medical industry that is putting countless patients at needless risk. According to Dr. Jeannie Callum and her colleagues from the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, doctors often order dangerous blood transfusions for their cancer patients in order to artificially qualify them for drug trials.

Before a new drug can be approved, it first has to be clinically tested in order to prove its safety. Clinical trials are often skewed to begin with, since drug companies conduct their own trials that typically yield positive results ( But they still have to gather volunteers in order to conduct them, and one way they do that is by getting doctors to illegitimately recruit their patients.

As far as cancer patients go, their blood hemoglobin levels must fall within a certain range in order to qualify for research studies on new drugs. But when levels do not fall within that range, many doctors simply order a blood transfusion that temporarily provides a quick fix for qualification.

"It's not an unusual practice," explained ethicist Blair Henry in a recent Reuters article. "Patients can develop fatal and life-threatening transfusion complications...[i]n these causes, the patients only take risk, with no benefit. No patient (or their physician) should be placed in this situation."

It is difficult to know precisely how widespread the practice actually is, though, because transfusion requests are not validated for legitimacy. Such a practice not only puts patients at unwarranted risk, but it skews trial data as well.

"We're concerned that tweaking patients up to a certain criteria for eligibility is providing data that may bias a trial," added Henry. "There should be few situations, if any, in which a patient receives a transfusion solely for the purpose of temporarily altering a laboratory value to gain admittance to a clinical trial."

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