Advice? Ulcer trial participation

My lameness vet is participating in a trial for ulcers. It includes scope and drugs. I have a 4 year old recently imported warmblood gelding who hasn’t exhibited overt ulcer symptoms. He’s turned out about 14 hours a day (but no grass), worked somewhat rigoriously 5-6 days per week, will travel lightly this summer, and we have good hay - both grass and alfalfa. If the trial wasn’t offered, I wouldn’t be considering looking into ulcer treatment for him.

Is this strange? It’s a trial, so I’m assuming it’s a drug that’s not on the market yet. If I’m really worried about ulcers, my insurance will cover the cost of gastrogard (I know it’s $$$$$) after the initial scope (but no colic coverage for a year after treatment). Are ulcers so ubiquitious that I should assume they are a problem and take advantage of a drug trial because it’s free? Is it worth using something that’s not widely available if my insurance will pay for it? thanks for any thoughts!

If the study requirements aren’t burdensome, I would consider it. Recently imported, fairly new to “work” just due to his age and showing this summer? Those are risk factors. Getting a scope is a plus and nice to have a baseline. Why not? :slight_smile:

If the study is:

  1. scope the horse
  2. ONLY treat the horse if evidence of ulcers are found

Then yes, I would absolutely consider it.

If treatment begins before determining there’s a problem I wouldn’t even consider it for a second.

Ulcer drugs are not benign. I’ve posted many times about my horse who colicked twice badly as a result (several vets and I believe) of being on omeprazole long term. And boy, a LOT of people have jumped on the “pop rocks”- or Gastrogard-without-scoping bandwagon in the last several years.

Altering the function of your horse’s digestive tract is not something to trifle with unless there’s a legitimate reason.

You may also want to consider that even if the scope reveals ulcers, your horse could be one selected to receive a placebo, in which case he’s going however long without any treatment. Scientists, please correct me if I’m wrong.

Who is sponsoring and funding the study? Independent researchers? Vet school on their own or a drug company either directly or through a grant? Is your vet or his partnership receiving reimbursement? Who pays if your horse has an adverse reaction to an experimental drug (your insurance sure won’t)? Is there a contract for you to sign before enrolling?

If it is an actual scientific study, protocol is at least 2 groups, one on the new drug, one on a placebo and often there is (and usually should be) a control group getting nothing-to rule out getting better with no help or prove they get better with no help.

These things are best with all animals in the same place under the same management to remove environmental influence including human interpretation. It can get foggy if participants are in different places under different management with different observers.

I’m kind of a don’t rock the boat type anyway but would need some questions answered, in writing, before giving this serious consideration. Namely who, why and what’s in it for them. I can see volunteering self or animal for experimental drug research but only for a diagnosed problem unresponsive to exsisting and proven treatments since there is risk for me and potentially big money for others involved.

I know some who have participated in this type thing through the state vet school, but they were invited in because of serious pre exsisting conditions and there was paperwork to be signed. Pulling an undiagnosed, healthy, privately owned and kept horse into an experimental drug study would not interest me unless it was as a control or placebo subject. But those are undisclosed so the perceptions of observers and participants (owners in this case) are not influenced.

Get more information.

Thanks, you have all affirmed my hunch. I guess it sounds great - get free ulcer drugs! But I worry about a)going hunting for problems we haven’t had any indication existed and b)treating them with a drug trial because c)I’m assuming there’s a not inconsequential amount of risk involved.

Thanks everyone for weighing in! I’ll definitely do more info-gathering, but I’m thinking it’s not worth it now.

This is absolutely NOT how modern medical trials are organized where there is an effective treatment for a disease and animals are diagnosed with that disease. Withholding treatment would be highly unethical. The standard way to set up this type of study would be to compare the current standard treatment to the new treatment (without a control or placebo group).

OP: I would certainly ask for full details before enrolling. What are the real risks of this study? What are you actually agreeing to?