A group of Rhodes students chose to become human lab rats recently and spent a weekend in a clinical testing facility on the Rhodes University campus. The Biopharmaceutics Research Institute (BRI), a self-funded institute based at Rhodes, conducted their first skin blanching trials for this year and 16 students took part.
A group of Rhodes students chose to become human lab rats recently and spent a weekend in a clinical testing facility on the Rhodes University campus. The Biopharmaceutics Research Institute (BRI), a self-funded institute based at Rhodes, conducted their first skin blanching trials for this year and 16 students took part. The skin blanching tests aren't for cosmetic products, but rather test for the effect of vasoconstriction (the opposite of blushing) caused by topical corticosteroids. These are active ingredients in prescription medication for dermatological conditions like psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis. The BRI has been performing human skin blanching experiments for almost 30 years now, and relies on healthy participants who are screened and selected, and of course financially reimbursed. The participants receive R950 afterwards for spending the weekend in the testing facility where they are given beds and food, in between going for routine skin assessments. The tests are commissioned by pharmaceutical companies that develop products of expired patents, and want to assess their new products. “The testing we do is a comparative testing to demonstrate bioequivalence between the generic product and the innovator that is already on the market,” said Dr Mike Skinner, director of the BRI. The intensity of blanching is measured, which is an indirect measure of the absorption of corticosteroids, and depends on the potency of the corticosteroid and the amount of it absorbed from the formulation when applied onto the skin. In this manner the corticosteroids stay in the outer layer of the skin, making possible side effects minor and local, according to Skinner. Extensive long-term and extensive use can however have serious side effects, like causing the skin to thin, he said. Skin blanching is pain-free and short term (it fades after 24-36 hours after the study), and clinical trials are conducted under strict regulation of South African regulatory bodies. They also adhere to international guidelines that stipulate operating procedures, Skinner said. “I’m always willing to be a guinea pig if it could ease someone else’s life; and the pay’s good,” said Jess Jooste, one of the participants. She also described the procedure as simple and well-controlled and said that the participants were well looked after. Testing takes place throughout the year and interested potential participants (only Caucasians can be tested) can email firstname.lastname@example.org/ital for more information.