Clinical research is essential for finding new and potentially better treatments for any number of medical problems, and clinical trials are the final stage of testing before getting FDA approval for new medications or treatments. While it can be beneficial for patients to take part in these trials, it's also important to fully understand what's involved before agreeing to participate in any given clinical trial.
Phase of the Trial
The higher the phase of the clinical trial, the more likely a medication or treatment is likely to be beneficial for any given condition. The potential risks of taking the medication are also less as it passes through the phases and more is understood about how the medication works, what the potential side effects are, and what doses are most likely to get the best results.
Even if a new medication or treatment seems promising, in a randomized study there's no guarantee you'll get that treatment. You don't get to choose which group of the study you fall into. If one arm of the study involves no treatment or a treatment that you know doesn't work for you, it may not be the best decision for you medically to participate in the study if there are other treatments available that could be helpful.
Joining a clinical trial may get you access to a new treatment sooner than if you weren't part of a trial, and that treatment may turn out to work better than the current standard treatment. By participating in the trial, you're also helping to advance research into the treatment of your condition and may help other people with the same medical condition. Because of the study, you may also get monitored more closely by medical professionals who are experts in the treatment of your condition as well.
Taking part in clinical research does have some risks. It may turn out that the new treatment doesn't work or that it doesn't work for you. There may also be side effects, and these side effects can be potentially fatal in some cases. Because of the potential need for increased monitoring and the limited number of locations where treatment as part of the trial is available, it may take more of your time to participate in the trial than to get the standard treatment. It may mean you need to spend more time staying in a hospital rather than at home.
Read the fine print of the informed consent and ask a lot of questions to make sure you're clear just what is involved in the study. In some cases, all treatment costs are covered, while in others, this may not be the case. Insurance sometimes doesn't cover treatment as part of clinical trials. Monetary compensation is sometimes provided to help make up for the potential risks and costs of participating in clinical trials. This is most likely in earlier phases of clinical trials and in certain medical fields. Be sure to consider what expenses you'll have to cover out of pocket before making a decision.
For more information on clinical trials, contact a company like Quintiles.