New Mexicans help test deadly disease vaccine

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A group of New Mexicans is helping to figure out whether one potentially groundbreaking vaccine does what it claims. That’s because clinical trials for the drug are happening right here in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque is one of 200 sites in 20 different countries where this new vaccine is being tested. Nevertheless, each person is important because the more participants, the more sure creators can be that it does or doesn’t work. It’s happening at Albuquerque Clinical Trials and doctors there are using participants from all across the state to do it.

Here’s how it works, pharmaceutical companies contract with Albuquerque Clinical Trials. Organizers are given almost everything they need;  the protocol, the medication or vaccine and the placebo pills (an inactive drug).

When they’re blind studies, patients are assigned a number and those administering the drug don’t know who’s getting the drug and who’s getting the placebo.

In fact, in some trials, only the pharmacist preparing the drug knows what’s what.

Leaders with Albuquerque Clinical Trials say sometimes the drug companies have people in mind, but they find most of their patients themselves.

“We have a lot of people who are really interested in trials and there are two reasons to be interested for an appropriate person. One is ‘I don’t want this disease or I want to get better or I want this drug,” says Albuquerque Clinical Trials Medical Director Elizabeth Bretton.

Bretton says the other reason to get involved is selfless. They want to help others who are sick. She says pharmaceutical companies use their company because they have worked with them before, because they may have experience with certain diseases and because their patient retention rate is very high.

The latest new vaccine Albuquerque Clinical Trials is testing is supposed to treat a deadly diarrhea.

“It’s a very important disease, it’s very nasty. The word morbidity is a big fancy word which means it makes people really sick. Mortality, everybody knows means it kills you,” explained Bretton.

The disease Bretton is referring to is Clostridium Difficile. It’s related to Tetanus and, like Tetanus, it can live just about anywhere. Those most affected, though, are older or have spent time in the hospital for surgery. That’s because you’re often given antibiotics when you have surgery and that kills the good bacteria in your gut. Without it, you’re vulnerable to this disease. It can kill 15,000 people in one year.

Yet, one drug company is hoping to change that and they’ve asked Albuquerque Clinical Trials to help. Bretton says she’s thrilled to be a part of the study.

“If there’s nothing out there to prevent this disease and this is the first thing that may be effective and you always have to say may until the day that it’s in, this is an incredibly exciting thing,” said Bretton.

There will be 15,000 participants in this study and Bretton is still looking for more. This is a third phase study which means doctors have already determined there are no nasty side effects. If you’re interested, click here.

The vaccine is supposed to prevent C. Diff for three years, so this is a years long study.

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