How Participating in a Clinical Trial Can Benefit Not Just You, but Our Society

Medical research studies

Any time we receive a prescription or even do something as basic as pop a painkiller or take a decongestant, we’re reaping the benefits of those who participate in a clinical drug development trial. Medical research studies help medical professionals figure out what treatments are safe for use. In short, any treatment or drug we undergo has already been tried by thousands of people before being released onto the mainstream market. Those who participate in medical research studies or clinical trials often have the first access to groundbreaking new treatments that can save their lives — and help further research and knowledge. So how can you get involved if you’re interested? Why are medical research studies and clinical trials so important? And what do you need to know before participating?

How Can You Get Involved?
A survey about clinical trials in the United States showed that over 95% of those who responded hadn’t ever been a participant in a clinical trial. However, if you’re interested in pursuing one, checking the National Institutes of Health website is a good way to start — they list resources where you can find accredited ongoing trials.

If you or a loved one is suffering from a disease or illness, your doctor or another specialist you’re seeing may be able to refer you to a few clinical trials or medical research studies that are focusing on finding a cure or a treatment.

Some institutions dedicated to a specific disease or illness may even hold clinical trial fairs that you can visit, that help inform you about the trials, give you a chance to ask questions, and let you see the array of options to choose from.

Why Are These Studies and Clinical Trials Important?

Almost half of respondents to a survey agreed with the statement that participating in clinical trials is as valuable to the health care system as donating blood. In a way, that’s true. Clinical trials are a groundbreaking way of discovering new treatments for diseases and can lead to important information how to discover, diagnose, and minimize the risks of that disease. It also makes sure that the treatment or drug is safe for widespread use — side effects are one of the things being tested during these trials — and that it’s effective.

In a Phase 1 clinical trial, only a small group (under 100 people) is tested to make sure that the drug or treatment is safe to continue with and to see what side effects emerge. Phase II encompasses between 100-300 people to see how effective the drug or treatment is and to continue measuring its safety. In Phase III, between 1,000-3,000 people receive the drug or treatment to confirm how effective it is, keep an eye on side effects, do a comparison to other treatments on the market currently, and to gather information on how to use it safely. Only after it passes Phase IV, can the team submit a New Drug Application to be approved to go on the market. Between 5,000-10,000 drugs enter the research and development stage, only about 250 of those get to pre-clinical trial testing, only five make to actual clinical trials, and just about one gets approved by the FDA.

So you can see how important these trials are in determining our medical treatments and saving lives.

What You Need to Know About Informed Consent
Before participating in a clinical study or clinical trial, you absolutely must be able to make an informed decision and consent. It even has its own section in the ninth revision of the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Code, which tells you how important it is.

Informed consent is even more important if researchers are using children (anyone younger than 18). They must legally get consent from the child’s parent or guardian. Make sure you know all possible outcomes of the trial, what to do if you want to stop participating, and all the risks associated before agreeing.

Help advance medical research and perhaps even gain lifesaving treatment of your own for free when you participate in a clinical trial or medical research study.