Patients “blood doping” to get into trials

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Like professional sports, cancer trials can be competitive, for both patients and researchers. And, also like professional sports, the competitors are apparently doing anything they can to get an edge, as MedPage Today’s Crystal Phend writes in a story about patients using “blood doping” to get into clinical trials.

Phend points to a NEJM letter which references three different patients who relied on blood transfusions to become eligible for trials of new chemotherapy agents. Naturally, Phend writes, this is not advisable.

Clinicians should try to correct the underlying laboratory value through other treatments first, such as treating anemia, they urged. Explore all possible other options, including looking for other trials at other institutions for patients who don’t meet eligibility criteria, they added.

“Patient safety must trump all decisions for such patients,” the group concluded. “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.”

The authors also recommend that publications disclose the number of patients in each trial who required blood transfusions to meet eligibility requirements.

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