Participating in a clinical trial is a noble endeavor. It is a modern way of serving sick and needy people who are eagerly waiting for new ways to manage their diseases. Public participation not only helps to complete a trial faster but also boosts the morale of scientists who are working 24 /7 with the hope of gracing us with new treatments or testing against various diseases. So, next time you see a doctor or health professional do not hesitate to ask how you can be a part of a trial, either as a patient or as a healthy volunteer.
Participating in research is voluntary and no one is ever forced to take part in a trial. Medical research leads to medical advancements. It helps to improve the health of millions of people around the world. Health research changes peoples’ lives every day. But unfortunately, many studies end early because there are not enough volunteers to fill the study enrollment goals.
Presently a wide range of research is being done. Clinical trials are being conducted for conditions from allergies to cancer to digestive health. This is possible only with the help of volunteers across the country. These volunteers can range from children to adults with varying health conditions and diagnoses.
Why is it Difficult to Find Volunteers?Despite its great importance, much time is expended to find the required number of volunteers. Some of the causes are:
- Lack of public awareness about the significance of a clinical trial
- Many people are unaware that participating in a study is an option for them
- Despite their interest, only certain people may be eligible to volunteer for a specific trial.
How to Find a Clinical TrialOne of the first things you must do is to find the trials that you are interested in. For this you can:
- Consult health care personnel like general practitioners (GPs), specialists, or nursing or allied health professionals. They will provide general information about clinical trials and may have information on clinical trials that are relevant to you.
- Look up support groups or consumer health organizations that have an interest in a particular disease or condition that you are interested in. They may also have information on trials, or be able to provide contact information for other patients who have been involved in trials.
- Certain websites such as ClinicalTrials.gov and CenterWatch.com provide listings for clinical trials that are recruiting participants.
- It is helpful if you join a national research volunteer registry or sign up at ResearchMatch.org. ResearchMatch is a registry system that connects research volunteers with researchers across the country. It is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
- Register at CenTrial.org, an international database of volunteers and patients that will automatically contact you by text or email when you are a match to a clinical trial, based on your health profile and location.
Questions to Ask about Clinical TrialsIt is a good idea to ask about trials in general and also what is involved in a particular clinical trial you are interested in. Write down questions you have before seeing your doctor. Here are a few examples of questions you might ask:
- Is there any clinical trial that I could take part in?
- What are the purposes of the study?
- What kinds of tests and treatments does the study involve?
- What does the treatment do?
- Will I get paid in the process?
- Who will be responsible in case of any adverse effect due to trial?
What are the Benefits of Participating in a Clinical Trial?
- Volunteers gain access to the newest and the most up-to-date research treatments before they are available to the general public.
- Participating in a clinical trial may also allow you to get advice and treatment from leading medical experts.
- Clinical trials may provide you with a greater understanding of your condition or illness.
- Participating in a clinical trial also allows you to play an active role in your healthcare and their treatment.
- People with rare or difficult to treat conditions for which there may be limited options may be able to participate in new treatments.
- People participating in clinical trials will be monitored more closely and comprehensively compared with those receiving standard treatment.
Problems with Clinical Trials
- As with any medical tests or treatment, clinical trials have risks too.
- Also, new modalities may not work as well as or better than the ones now in use.
- Another disadvantage may be a large amount of paperwork or trips to the clinic.
Am I Eligible?The eligibility requirements vary for each study. You should always carefully determine the criteria for participation. Even if you qualify and want to participate in a trial, you are not guaranteed to be enrolled in the trial. If you are enrolled, you may not receive the drug being tested and may receive the placebo instead. For details on eligibility, carefully read the details listed about the trial, or contact the study staff directly as they are in the best position to answer questions and provide specific information regarding eligibility and possible participation. The contact information of the investigators is usually found in each study listing.
All clinical trials have specific participation requirements known as the “inclusion criteria". Make sure you fit the criteria before you apply to be enrolled. “Exclusion criteria” are factors that exclude a volunteer from participation. You must also carefully check that these criteria do not exempt you from participating.
The criteria will vary from study to study. Criteria can include details such as age, gender, location, diagnosis, current drugs you are taking, whether or not you are a smoker, and medical history to name a few. These criteria help to ensure volunteer safety and ensure that all participants in the clinical trial have the same characteristics so that the trial will generate reliable results. It is also important in order to have a new treatment approved by health authorities.
Informed ConsentBefore deciding to participate in a study, you will be asked to review an informational document called an informed consent form. This form will provide all the key facts about the study so that you can decide whether or not to take part in the trial. If there remains any doubt, consult with the trial investigators. The informed consent form must be signed in order to participate in a study.
Informed consent is not a contract, and you may leave the study at any time. Before choosing to discontinue, it is important to talk to your doctor about how quitting a study may affect your health and/or future treatment options.