Explaining The Value Of A Little-Known Drug To Mass Audiences? Get Me A Comic Book Artist, Stat!
Throughout the years, comic books have been used to teach people about everything from the benefits of the Social Security system to the history of the Cup Noodle. Now, a British doctor is using the medium to introduce the world – and especially his medical profession colleagues – to a drug that could prevent tens of thousands of trauma patients from bleeding to death every year.Dr. Ian Roberts has been a believer in a drug called tranexamic acid (TXA) that improves blood clotting for some time, and he has scientific evidence to back up his faith; a 2005 study he launched demonstrated that patients who received the drug within three hours of suffering a traumatic injury were “significantly less likely” to bleed to death than those who didn’t. Despite the study’s results, however, there hasn’t been a massive rush to use TXA in everyday medical practice, even in casualty or trauma circumstances.
“You can find something that’s true, publish it in [medical journal] The Lancet, wash your hands of it, and say, ‘Well that’s that,’ but that doesn’t seem very responsible. Getting research into practice takes a long time,” Roberts explained. “Science is very good at finding the answer to whether a treatment works, but it’s very bad at helping you to remember that that treatment is effective. What people remember are stories – emotional stories.”
And so Roberts turned to artist Emma Vieceli to create a comic book that would show TXA in use following a bomb explosion, with fictional doctors demonstrating its importance in a way that a dry study could never quite manage. However, Vieceli and Roberts didn’t stop there when it came to upping the appeal of TXA: “We also tried to make doctors giving tranexamic acid look sexier than doctors [who didn't],” Roberts admitted.
Whether or not Roberts and Vieceli’s efforts will be recognized by the doctors and decision makers who can help TXA get into the hospitals and emergency rooms where it needs to be remains to be seen, but if nothing else, Roberts and Vieceli have spread the word in a way that’s far easier to understand — and more enjoyable to read — than leafing through whatever medical tome is closest to hand.