Note: This piece has been entered in the Patients Have Power Writing Contest run by Clara Health designed to raise awareness about clinical trials. As a healthcare practitioner, I am very partial to this cause and hope to help raise awareness about the importance of research.
Have you ever taken a prescription medication, received a vaccine, or used a medical device? Of course you have! You are able to do such things safely because of clinical trials.
Or, perhaps you have cancer or a chronic disease for which current treatments are not effective. Participating in a clinical trial is a great way to try a new, innovative treatment that is not yet on the market.
You might be asking, “But, if I participate in a clinical trial, won’t I just be a lab rat?” This is a common myth. There are rules and regulations in place that protect your welfare if you choose to participate in a clinical trial.
Let’s dive into what clinical trials are all about and how they can be beneficial. You, as the patient, have the power to make a change!
What is a clinical trial?
Clinical studies is an umbrella term for both clinical trials and observational studies.
A clinical trial is a study in which researchers investigate the safety and utility of a medical product or intervention by measuring outcomes in the participants. The intervention in question might be compared to an already existing intervention, a placebo, or no intervention.
In an observational study, participants are not assigned to a specific intervention but are already receiving an intervention as part of their routine medical care. In this case, researchers are simply observing and are interested in cause and effect relationships.
There are literally thousands of research studies going on around the United States right now.
Why conduct a clinical trial?
Generally, clinical trials are useful for adding to medical knowledge regarding treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of diseases.
This probably does not come as a surprise to anyone but we do not know everything there is to know about diseases and how to keep them at bay. Recommendations change all the time based on results of clinical trials.
What about animal studies? Yes, animal studies exist and serve an important role. However, they do have their limitations. Humans and rats are certainly not built the same, right?
Here are a few reasons why we conduct clinical trials and observation studies:
- Evaluating an intervention (drugs, medical devices, surgical techniques, and so on) for treating a disease
- Finding ways to prevent or determine risk factors for a disease
- Learning the best way to diagnose a disease or condition
- Finding ways to improve the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses
What are some results of clinical trials?
Clinical trials add to our knowledge seemingly by the day. Here are some interesting breakthrough findings from clinical trials:
- While marijuana has been acknowledged as a possible treatment for certain diseases, it has also been found to have unfavorable effects such as increased risk of stroke and heart failure
- A vaccine has been devised that may prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- A substance called resveratrol (found in wine and dark chocolate) can rejuvenate old cells and potentially reverse aging
- The poliovirus has the potential to kill cancer cells and stop tumors from regrowing
- Saturated fat is not what clogs coronary arteries, rather it is thought to be an inflammatory process
- A diet low in gluten might actually raise the risk for cardiovascular disease because one is missing out on heart-healthy whole grains
Oh, and guess what? This is all research that has come out within the past year.
What should I know before enrolling in a clinical trial?
You are protected during the process of a clinical trial in a number of ways:
- Informed consent. Informed consent provides information about the clinical trial. It intends to provide the person with the risks, benefits, and alternatives to the study.
- Institutional review boards. Institutional review boards (IRBs) are made up of doctors, researchers, and members of the community to make sure that the study is ethical and protecting the welfare of the participants
Also, be sure to ask questions about reimbursement for expenses, potential interruption to your usual health care, follow-up required, need for hospitalization, length of the study, what to do in case of injury, and whether or not you will have access to the results.
How can I become involved in a clinical trial?
Whether you want to contribute to scientific research or seek treatment for a condition, there is a clinical trial for you.
Check out clinicaltrials.gov to find a database of clinical trials around the world. You can search by location and the condition being studied.
You can also check out Clara Health to find out more about clinical trials. They can even match you up with a clinical trial that suits your preferences!
Clinical studies are a useful tool to help researchers gain more knowledge about diseases and how to keep people healthy.
Breakthroughs in research are happening constantly. It’s a very exciting thing to see!
You, as the patient, have the power to change the medical landscape as we know it. Get out there!
Disclaimer: Information contained in this post should not be substituted for medical advice. Therefore, if you think you are having a problem, contact your own provider who knows your health history.
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