Yesterday I was called to the Royal Berkshire Hospital to be interviewed and to give my consent to my taking part in "randomised controlled trials to investigate whether prophylactic antibiotics can prevent further episodes of cellulitis of the leg".
The research is being organised through the UK Dermatology Clinical Trials Network (http://www.ukdctn.org), a group of skin doctors and nurses who have agreed to work together in order to research important questions of relevance to both doctors and patients. None of the doctors or nurses helping with this study will receive any payment other than for administrative costs. The information collected will be analysed by researchers employed at the University of Nottingham. The work is being funded by two different charities; Action Medical Research (http://www.action.org.uk) and The BUPA Foundation (http://www.bupafoundation.com), with additional support from the UK Dermatological Clinicaal Trials Network.
The purpose of the research is to find out whether taking a low dose of penicillin every day for six or twelve months helps to prevent further episodes of cellulitis of the leg in patients who have previously suffered from this. Half the participants in each trial will be given tablets containing a low dose of penicillin and the other half will be given 'dummy' tablets containing no active ingredients (a 'placebo'). At the end of the study period the number of repeat episodes of cellulitis in each group of patients will be compared and it will then be possible to find out whether the penicillin helped to prevent further episodes.
I have been placed in the trial group that will take the tablets for twelve months and, like all the other participants, I will not know whether I am taking penicillin or the 'placebo', nor will the research doctor. This is so that no-one involved in the trial can influence the results. All information collected during the research will be kept confidential and stored in a locked room.
When I was interviewed by the dermatologist yesterday, I was amazed at the thoroughness of the details needed from my medical history - I expected that! - but also about anything that had affected my legs during the past week and my quality of life in general. There were pages and pages of questions! Indeed, I don't think I've ever answered so many questions in one go in my life, but it will all be worth it if the recurrence of episodes of cellulitis can be prevented - not just for me but for many other patients in the years to come.