Participate in a clinical trial — me??
Some of us shy away from participating in clinical trials because we are not sure about what they will do or if they involve a great time commitment.
Most of the time we ignore pleas to join a clinical trial, no matter who might suggest it, because we simply don’t know much about the subject.
We can be asked to consider clinical trials from our doctors, healthcare professionals, family friends or by the trial organizer via the internet or social media.
Trials to investigate disease and how best to find a cure have been used since 1747 when James Lind conducted the first clinical trial to help treat scurvy.
International Clinical Trial Day is celebrated on May 20 in his honor.
What are Clinical Trials and Their Benefits?
Clinical trials are research conducted on people (once lab and animal studies are completed) used to find new ways to diagnose, treat, slow or even cure a disease. Many advances occur as a result of clinical trials.
Controlled clinical trials help get new treatments and medications to the market to help those suffering from a particular disease. This disease could be widespread like Alzheimer’s disease or a so-called orphan disease with few people affected.
Clinical trials are needed to be sure a new treatment is effective because the Food and Drug Administration requires proof that a drug actually does what the manufacturer says it does.
Some clinical trials are used not to determine if a drug will be effective but instead what dose is needed to get the maximum benefit without side effects. They already know the therapy will work but need to establish the appropriate dose.
It can be difficult for a new medication to move from the clinical trial phase to practice so that it can provide relief and be assured to be safe and effective.
It is expected that those involved in a clinical trial represent a diverse population including that person who is actually diagnosed with the disease intended to be treated by the trial treatment. More can be learned about how a drug or other therapy performs when different people are included.
Active in Your Own Healthcare
Participating in a clinical trial gives the participant the opportunity to take advantage of a new therapy before treatments are available to the public and also help others eventually be treated as well. Being a part of a clinical trial allows you to be an active member of your own healthcare.
75% of clinical trial volunteers said that the main reason they participated in a trial study was to help themselves and others and to advance science.
You can always learn about the trial and what participation entails before you agree to join one. There are rules that govern trials including being told whether a placebo will be used.
Here are a few potential ways you can support clinical trials.
Alzheimer’s Trial Match
The Alzheimer’s Association has a free matching service that will connect a clinical trial that is suitable with people with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians.
Clinical trials that are designed specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease are occurring across the country every day.
With your help, the course of Alzheimer’s disease could be changed improving the lives of caregivers as well as those with dementia.
You can learn more and create your own profile here.
Trial Reach and Cure Click
These two entities are working to help people discover and connect to clinical trials that might be right for you.
They are web based just like the Alzheimer’s Trial Match program and are the conduit that provides information to people that will help the researchers find participants.
They work to inform people about the possibilities of clinical research to people who may otherwise not be aware that they could get help and give help to others through their participation.
Using social media and weblinks to trials and screening questionnaires, they make it easier to get people to the appropriate trial without having to spend precious time in search of a way to get connected.
Their goal is to match the right person to the right clinical trial.
Many people want to help but don’t really know how to access trials and these two companies bridge that gap. They strive to help educate us all about clinical trials by providing information and an easy way to learn more and get started in a trial that is right for you.
How Can You or Someone You Know Get Involved
It is important to learn about clinical trials in general as you are doing now.
The next step is to become aware of where and how to learn about clinical trials accepting participants. You can do this through a variety of different avenues online such as a few we have described here.
Each trial has specific eligibility requirements to be sure you or your loved one is the right match to the selected trial. They will match you based on your responses to online questionnaire or screening.
Each trial will provide you with information and an informed consent that will help you fully understand the trial and, once they accept you, if you wish to proceed.
Some people are compensated for participating in a clinical trial and get additional medical care above the usual preventive care your insurance allows at no cost to you.
Benefits and Risks
There are many benefits of participation in a clinical trial but also some risks of which to be aware. You may receive a placebo or the medication itself may be ineffective. There may be side effects to the therapy that may be unpleasant.
A particular trial may involve more time than a current treatment, involve travel to a site or even a hospital stay for monitoring. These things would all be explained before you agreed to participate.
You are a volunteer and can withdraw from the trial at any time.
You don’t have to have a disease or condition to join a clinical research trial.
Healthy people help trials looking to learn about disease prevention and caregivers can help show the impact of their caregiving on health.
We all have something to offer in a clinical trial setting and can help others as we help ourselves!