I have to say, this was a delightful day for me; but what do this competition and its accompanying book have to do with our clinical trials?
To answer this question, I should first tell you a little bit about the competition. It was set up in 2012 as a platform for female writers, with ‘women’ as the central theme for all of the submissions. Also, the competition is hosted by the Hysterectomy Association UK, which means it gives us an opportunity to connect with some of our most precious volunteers.
Have you ever been on our website and noticed that we regularly have studies which only allow post-menopausal or surgically sterile women?
The reason for this is very simple. As most of the medications we test are brand new, we do not yet know how they might affect the development of an unborn child. Indeed, there are many medicines already on the market which we use routinely and regularly which can be harmful to foetal development – like ibuprofen, for example.
Of course, then, it is very important that pregnant women don’t enrol in our studies. Furthermore, when a new drug is in the earliest stages of testing, we need to ensure that a female volunteer won’t fall pregnant during a study, or during the period after the study when elements of the drug may remain in the body.
While we do have strict rules around contraception, the only way for clinical researchers to completely remove all risk to unborn babies is to appeal for volunteers who are no longer able to conceive.
And as so many of our studies are for people aged 18-55, we are often reliant on women who have had a Hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy is a major surgery. Undergoing this procedure can be very traumatic in itself, and the decision to have a hysterectomy is almost always the result of an emergency situation or a long duration of pain or illness. Both physically and emotionally, this is a difficult experience for a woman. Even though the surgery is undertaken for the benefit of the patient’s health, it takes time to come to terms with the feelings of loss associated with removal of the womb.
Perhaps it offers some comfort, then, that these women are essential to the progress of medical research? Physically and metabolically, male and female bodies are different to one another, so it is important that new drugs are tested on both men and women. Also, some drugs are developed to treat conditions which affect women exclusively, such as uterine fibroids and endometriosis; it is not feasible to test these drugs in men, nor is it ethical to test them in women who are able to bear children.
And this brings us neatly back to the question of why we sponsored a writing competition. The audience for Hysteria 2015 is crucial to our day-to-day work at Covance, and moreover, crucial to the future of medicine.
If you are post-menopausal or have had a hysterectomy and you’d like to learn more about our paid clinical trials, please click here.
If you would like to know more about the Hysteria 2015 anthology or to purchase a copy, please click here.