Paul Savage

Comedian, host, cartoonist, astronaut, occasional liar

Archive: Feb 2011: Winners Don’t Do Drug(trial)s

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I did a drug trial.  The suprise, that I put my body on the line for filthy lucre at the hands of Big Pharma, is of course ruined by the title of this blog. Other rejected titles include “The Drug (Trial)s don’t work, they just make you worse” and “Drug (trial)s: Just say no”.

I rejected these two as they were completely negative. This title is still pretty negative, but hey, I wasn’t getting jabbed with needles and having people analyse my pee because I want to further the cause of science. Not exclusively, anyway. If any science got advanced and I got paid, so much the better, but if I was going to advance any area of science it would be hoverboards. All of our problems can be solved by hoverboards. I heard a rumour that they have all the technology and are just waiting for the components to miniaturise for them to become mass manufacturable. It is my sincerest wish that this is true.

I was doing it because I had taken such an unholy beating financially in December (see for details). Left without a huge wage for December, a few gigs that still hadn’t paid me and with a lot of outgoings coming up, I needed cash and quickly.

My old youth worker and mentor Tom had mentioned he had done them when he was between jobs, and after promising to never tell my parents he told me, he gave me the details. I signed up to do a drug trial, 3 nights in a unit and couple of follow up visits.

After a pre trial health check (very gratifying to know that I am in perfect health. I always assumed I would have high blood pressure considering how little of modern life I can deal with adequately) where I briefly had a neurotic moment that the quite pretty nurse taking my samples would be put off me as my urine sample was quite a vivid yellow. then I realised if she was at all interested in me after i made a little whimper when I got stuck with the needle, handing her a steaming hot flask of my liquid waste probably hadn’t helped, no matter what the colour.

Anyway, I was getting the train down from Wolverhampton to that there London. I set my alarm and booked a taxi and arrived in plenty of time at 8:06 for my 8:30 train. Which didn’t appear on the board. The 8:03 train still did. Look how similar those two numbers are. 8:03, 8:30. Ooooh, I’m clearly a huge cretin. So i read my book for an hour in the waiting room and then spent an uncomfortable 2 hours on the train preparing a Deano story for the ticket inspector. Deano was a guy who I used to work with who felt it was his job in life to blag onto public transport for free. The amout of times he would launch in with a “you see, what it is mate is…” and tell a selection of halftruths and lies til they felt sorry for him or got bored. His finest moment was succesfully blagging his way onto a bus with a nonchalant “you’re going there anyway”, which is one of the most titanic display of balls I have ever seen.

So, whilst mentally preparing myself for the verbal battle of wills, (my closing argument “the bus did not arrive for 30 mins. If you want to fine someone, fine West Midlands travel” sounded nice and plausible and like far too much work for a ticket inspector to bother with) I wrapped myself up nice and tense and got myself worked up into such a awkward frenzy that I was left with nowhere to release it when the ticket inspector didn’t come round. Then the metropoplitan line was closed, which they helpfully hadn’t told me when I boarded it, so I was 2 hours late and genuinely fearful they wouldn’t let me on the program.

Happily, they weren’t that bothered, and I got shown my bed and my little cupboard in the ward with 8 other guys and told that if I needed to pee I was to do it in a brown 1 litre jar. After using it I had to give it back and it was locked in a fridge, where I had to go and ask a nurse to unlock it so I could have a leak. There is something strange about topping up your own chilled piss with fresh hot piss, which is why we generally don’t do it.

I had my bloods taken (they left my crips though. weak LA gang wordplay!) and had some sticky pads attached to my chest. It was very strange that first day, sat on a bed with 8 strangers all sat on beds, all covered in sticky pads around our nipples for ECGs and wired up like something out of the matrix. Stranger still was wandering around shirtless the whole time in february. Some of the guys who had done it before wore flip flops and long shorts or pyjama bottoms, so it made it look like they were experimenting on beach bums. Something, if I ever become a mad scientist, I probably would approve of.

The actual taking of the drug was on the second morning. Our schedules were staggered, and I looked at my guide “wake up: 7:45”. Hmm, I thought, not too bad. A lot earlier than I usually would get up, but I was pretty tired from a lot of travelling the week before. I dropped off a little after midnight, and covered myself in the duvet, which then became apparent was actually made of rubber (presumably to be wipeclean. how efficiently, disgustingly, clean) and strangely clingy.

So, it was with some suprise I was woken at 5:50 as they started waking everyone else up. It’s quite dificult to sleep through 20 medical staff swarming around, harrasing people awake, being aggravated by recalcitrant computers and gently bickering about who’s turn it is to do this or that. I got a canula in my arm, which is a small, semi permanent tap for your blood. Looks like this:

I idly wondered whether they could be given to heroin addicts to prevent infections, but then I put the thought from my mind as it began to itch. I started to wonder about whether it really was itching or if it was psychosomatic. It did itch. Not on the outside. On the inside, in my veins. It tickled. Nice to know it was only on for another 2 days.

One quick pee to empty the tanks before we were confined to bed for 4 hours. Any peeing subsequently would have to be done with the curtains round, in bed, from a prone position. Classy. (Right, that’s the last time I mention pee before I get lots of watersports fetishists stumbling on to this blog). Now came the time to take the actual drug. Because we were the 10th group to do this drug, we were given a monumental dose. Rather than pills or soluble liquid, we were taking it in the form of grains. The texture of which is really hard to desribe, unless you have eaten raw crumble mix straight from the bowl until it forms a dry, solid chunk that sticks to the roof of your mouth and makes you gag a bit. It was exactly like that. (if you have never eaten raw crumble mix from the bowl, I do suggest you do it. It is an awesome way to get a weeks sugar in a mushy paste, and great for making other people’s comfort foods look refined in contrast. Fish Finger sandwich? Pah. try clumps of flour and butter and sugar). The first group had had to do a tiny cap full, we had to do three shot glasses full (or the equivalent, not many hospitals serve drugs in shot glasses).

Anyway, lying in bed for four hours without moving is suprisingly easy for someone such as myself. I read a book about football tactics (the genuinely fascinating Inverting the Pyramid), wrote this months pub quiz, and listened to the nurses discuss their recent drunken night out and watch a posh lad across from me unsuccessfully flirt with them. The one bit of intrigue was when Dale, the lad in the bed next to me (seperate beds. It wasn’t that sort of drug trial. I’m not sure there are drug trials where everyone is in one big bed) had a coughing fit and they dragged him off for observation in case he was reacting badly, despite his repeated insistence that some water had gone down the wrong way.

To be honest, the only real difference between that day and any other is I did slightly less dicking around on facebook, and actually earnt money in bed.

For those of you interested, drug trials are really easy. They are not scary at all (I did mine at the same hospital and for the same company that did the infamous “elephant man” drugtrial where 6 people had bad reactions and killed all their t-cells, but Ihad no side effects at all). At worst they are a little bit dull. I spent most of the days wandering around, halfheartedly reading, watching TV and playing board games (me and 2 other people played a 6 hour game of risk, for instance). So it’s a lot like a caravan holiday when it’s raining, but you have to give samples of your bodily fluids every half hour. So exactly like caravan holidays with my Uncle Terry (whilst not true, I am proud of the classical structure of this joke).

Honestly, the worst part is that for my last blood sample (this coming monday) requires me to be off alcohol and caffeine for 48 hours, meaning that I have to go on a mate’s stag do completely sober. A large orange juice for me then.

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