Written by MindMate Staff
The purpose of clinical trials is to discover new ways to prevent, detect or treat certain diseases. As such, clinical trials need to find new participants meeting many different criteria on an ongoing basis. Contrary to popular belief, people without health conditions can participate in clinical trials also. People participate in clinical trials for a number of reasons; healthy volunteers say they participate to help others and to contribute to moving science forward. Participants with an illness or disease also participate to help others, but also to potentially receive the newest treatment for their condition.
Many people contemplating participating in clinical trials don’t believe it will impact them directly, and instead will serve the population at large better. However, studies show that patients who participate in clinical trials have outcomes at least as good, if not better, than the general patient population. There are also many misconceptions regarding “informed consent” during clinical trials. In practice, it is a very straightforward process, where participants get the opportunity to learn the key facts about a clinical trial before deciding whether to participate. The process of providing information to participants continues throughout the study, and to help you decide whether to take part, members of the research team explain the study. A common myth is that once you have given your consent and signed the form, you are bound to taking part in the study. However, this is not the case and participants can withdraw at any time.
The more people who get involved, the better. Clinical trials have often been criticised for lacking in both numbers and diversity of patients. To find out if a particular treatment works effectively across the population, trials need people of all ages, genders, races and social backgrounds. Many people are put off the idea of registering their interest in clinical trial participation before they are in possession of all the facts, as they believe they won’t meet the eligibility criteria, but for the most part this is not the case.
Above all, the medical professionals who run the clinical trials consist of some of the brightest minds in medicine, and will not leave you left in the dark and uninformed about your treatment. Again, it’s a complete myth that participants are treated like “guinea pigs” or that this is the first trial run, as many of the drugs tested have been studied for years prior. Every step of the way, potential participants have a dedicated team to provide them with information and support. The majority of patients come out of the trial period with a positive attitude towards the experience, and that giving the process a try dispelled any apprehension that they previously had.
Of course, the only way to find out if clinical trial participation is for you is to give it a go. Some sensible steps to take before deciding whether to participate is to research the study itself. Read objective scholarly articles if you can, and avoid forums which could spread misconceptions or falsehoods. Weigh up your options, and if you are eligible and can dedicate your time, you never know what impact you can have on the future of scientific research!