Did The Patient Fail The Treatment Or Did We Fail The Patient?

But what caught my eye and generated my pre-caffeine ire was in the opening sentence, terminology used in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics, words that I admit to have even uttered myself:

  • WASHINGTON–The Food and Drug Administration Friday approved a new type of drug by Roche Holding AG’s Genentech unit to treat rheumatoid arthritis in patients who have failed other treatments. [emphasis mine]

I know that we use that phrase because it is seems less cumbersome than saying, “in patients whose disease has not responded to existing drugs.”

But saying that the patient failed the treatment makes it seems that the patient somehow bears responsibility for the lack of their disease to respond to the tools we currently have available. Yes, yes, I know – disease is essentially a patient’s own pathophysiology, where their own homeostatic mechanisms are awry or respond inappropriately to environmental changes or invading organisms.

But jeez, have you ever thought what it sounds like to a patient to hear that they failed the therapy? Could we possibly take any less responsibility for our failure to treat disease? Even if physicians want to use the word “fail” couldn’t they at least shift the blame to us basic scientists who’ve failed to come up with an alternative drug?

Read More: http://scienceblogs.com/terrasig/2010/01/did_the_patient_fail_the_treat.php (ScienceBlogs: Terra Sigillata)

3 Comments
3 comments
  1. Wren says:

    This terminology has irritated me for years. I have RA. I take the drugs they tell me to take because they tell me the drugs might help me. The drugs don’t perform as hoped.

    And so I’VE failed the drug. Not the other way around. That just frosts me.

    I’d sure like to see this sort of medical rhetoric changed to reflect the truth. Imperfect scientists develop imperfect drugs for imperfect people with imperfect ailments. When the imperfect drug doesn’t perform as planned, the blame should not be placed on the imperfect patient. It’s not the patient’s fault, nor the drug’s, nor the scientist’s. It just didn’t work. So we move on.

    Patients with chronic illnesses don’t need this petty drubbing on top of everything else. Dang.

  2. Marilu Gonzalez says:

    I take care of my husband of 14 yrs. He was diagnosed w/ RA 2 yrs. ago. and so far nothing is working to improve his struggles w/ this illness. He feels it’s his fault. Which of course I keep telling him it’s not. Sometimes he wants to give up and not take anything at all! I wish the doctors and the researcher would get on the same page and find something now!!

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