How to Embrace the Power of the Clinical Trial on International Clinical Trials Day and Beyond
When we pick up our prescriptions from the pharmacy, most of us do not think about where these drugs come from. Yet every pill or medical intervention – from cold medicine to cancer treatments – begins with a scientific innovation and then must evolve down a long road over many years through the different stages of drug development.
Clinical trials are the bridge over which all new medical therapies must pass, ensuring they have been rigorously tested and approved as both safe and medically advantageous. In honor of International Clinical Trials Day that took place on May 20, I would like to shed light on the clinical trial process and tell you a little bit more about how you can empower yourself as a participant.
- Clinical trials can be mutually beneficial. Looking back to just 60 years ago, we did not have many standards of modern medicine that we use today, such as antibiotics, vaccines for polio, effective drug therapies for neurological illnesses, testing for genetic disorders, coronary bypass surgery, transplanted organs and artificial joints. Clinical research has transformed the practice of medicine, and yet the innovations we discover in the next 60 years could be even more exciting. However, without people volunteering to be participants in medical research studies, new medications and devices cannot become available for consumer use. Medical research studies provide excellent opportunities to explore new treatments that could potentially be more effective in treating a condition than the treatments currently available, while simultaneously helping thousands of other sufferers across the globe.
- Participation may be easier than you think. Research studies typically involve an evaluation process, when study doctors determine if you are eligible to participate in the study. Different studies have different requirements. If you are eligible and agree to participate, researchers will randomly place you and other study participants into different treatment groups. Typically different groups receive different treatments that may include the investigational treatment, a standard treatment or treatment with placebo. Conducting studies with a placebo is important because researchers need to compare how the treatment works in participants receiving the investigational medication versus how it works in those that are not.
A recent trend examines how doctors are putting more consideration into the time commitment a trial will require and how that will affect patients’ job and family life. Talk to the researchers conducting your trial of interest about how you can participate in the study and maintain a minimal impact to your daily life.
- Improve your awareness about clinical trials. In a 2013 Zogby survey, more than half of patients were unaware of trials available to them, and only 25 percent of those patients learned of trials from their physician.
I am a firm believer that the clinical trial process is most successful when all of the stakeholders involved work together toward a common good. As a patient, you can play an important role in that by connecting to the available networks to learn about the trials available for your condition. Start by asking your doctor if there are any treatments being evaluated in current research studies that might help you. Additional information about current clinical trials can also be found at www.ClinicalResearch.com.
Patient advocacy groups are another great resource for trial participation. These groups help patients, their families and their caregivers navigate the landscape of specific disease areas, ensuring patients receive appropriate and timely care, education and financial assistance.
International Clinical Trials Day commemorates the day that James Lind conducted the first-ever clinical trial studying scurvy in May 1747. We have come leaps and bounds since then, but we still have a long way to go – and we can get there with your help. Consider empowering yourself today by learning more about ongoing clinical research that may be able to help you or a loved one.
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