What am I getting into if I participate in a. clinical trial?

Clinical trials are important for medical advancements and part of every medical research team’s process of finding new cures or treatments for diseases. The goal of a clinical trial is to find new or better treatments, new preventative measurements, new diagnostic methods, or even find a cure for specific illnesses. They also aim to find out if a new treatment (e.g. a drug) works the way it should work and is safe to use. Usually, clinical trials study:

  • Improved treatments/better treatments

  • New drugs

  • New combinations of drugs

  • New ways of doing surgery

  • New ways to improve the lives of people with chronic illnesses

  • New medical devices​​

 

When deciding to join or not to join a clinical trial, there are usually a range of benefits, but also risks.

 

Just like routine medical care and your daily activities, clinical trials may involve risk. When thinking about the risk of a clinical trial, think about these three factors:

  1. What is the chance of any harm occurring to me during the course of this study?

  2. What kind of harms could occur as a result of taking part in the study?

  3. If harm may occur, what level of harm could I experience?

 

To be fair, there are always risks (for example, the chance of minor discomfort for a short period of time) whenever you participate in a clinical trial (similar to what you experience at the doctor). Nevertheless, in rare cases, study participants also experience side effects that require medical attention.

 

If you’re unsure about the risks of a trial that you’re considering being part of, have a look at the research protocol. In the research protocol, risks are described in detail. In order to participate in the study, you have to review and sign an informed consent form, which describes all the risks of participating in the trial. A member of the research staff will also be available to answer any questions you have about the trial. This person will explain the study to you, what’s involved, and what the risks are.

 

On the other side, there are also many benefits to joining a clinical trial:

  1. You will help others through participating in a clinical trial, as researchers are able to test new treatments, procedures, and approaches on you that will eventually be used to help others who are sick.

  2. You will benefit from the latest treatment methods before they are available (this is also important to consider when there is no cure for your health condition yet, or when current treatments are controversial).

  3. While part of the study, you will receive regular and careful medical attention from a research team, consisting of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Usually, these medical treatments are also provided to you free of charge.

 

One thing you should also consider is the time commitment involved in participating in a clinical trial. Some studies may require you to go to the gym 3-4 times per week, and/or visit a doctor once a month. Other studies may require you to go to the doctor weekly, while others may only need to see a health professional every 6 months. Please also keep in mind that usually you will be reimbursed for travel expenses and for your time commitment in the form of vouchers or even cash.

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