Have you ever considered volunteering for a clinical trial? Probably not. Misconceptions persist that volunteers in clinical trials are being used as guinea pigs by researchers who are willing to endanger their health.
Not so. What’s more, if we want medicine to keep up with the needs of an aging population, then older people will need to volunteer for trials.
Clinical trials are at the cutting edge of medicine. They are the context in which medical milestones are reached and barriers are crossed. And as America ages, trials need older volunteers to test new drugs, new diagnostic and other medical equipment, and new health prevention and improvement options. The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) in Boston says that of the 1,000 new drugs being evaluated in ongoing clinical trials, more than 700 treat age-related illness, but those who are aging make up only one third of the participants, and 85 percent of trials are delayed due to lack of volunteers.
Trials can benefit the volunteers, too – in a number of ways.
So, in the interests of science, read on to learn about the nuts and bolts of clinical trials and how they might be able to help you.
What is a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial is a research study with human volunteers, oftentimes healthy ones, but also those who are looking for a new form of treatment for their disease. Studies look at all sorts of health issues including sleep, weight, pain, drug effectiveness and behavior change, and are designed to help advance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease. A trial answers specific health questions; when properly conducted, it’s a safe and efficient way to find new methods of improving and promoting better health.
Where Do Clinical Trials Take Place?
Clinical trials are conducted in various settings, including academic medical centers, hospitals, universities, doctors’ offices and community clinics.
Why Participate in a Clinical Trial?
- If you have a particular health issue that a trial is addressing, joining will give you access to needed treatment that isn’t widely available, if it is available at all outside of the trial. There are always risks, but in many cases the risks are no greater than those involved in normal medical treatment.
- Drug trials may give you access to drugs that would otherwise not be available to you. The trials are carefully monitored, with very specific protocols spelled out in advance and review boards ensuring safety. (On the other hand, you might be part of a placebo group, meaning you receive no intervention, but serve as a comparison with those receiving a particular drug or treatment.)
- Some people enter trials because they have limited health insurance and see a trial as a way of gaining access.
- While many trials do not compensate volunteers, others pay volunteers in amounts ranging from $25 to $500.
- Perhaps you have previous experience with health issues and are interested in helping to find better treatments. Some people want to be partners in helping to advance the science of medicine and are seeking out a like-minded, highly educated group of people with whom to share the experience.
How Do I Find A Clinical Trial?
Health care providers often tell patients about clinical trials, but if you’re looking for one, you can always ask the medical professionals who are treating you. Pending trials are also listed in newspapers and by support groups. These websites can help direct you.
- The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation
- Clinical Trials.gov
- Center Watch
If you have participated in a clinical trial, or know someone who has, share some insights in the comments box below – thanks!