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Clinical Trials FAQs

Medical treatment would not be where it is today without the research from clinical trials. If you are considering volunteering for a clinical trial, either as a hospital patient or healthy volunteer, it is important to know what you are agreeing to. Review answers to frequently asked questions about clinical trials to find out what they can accomplish for you, and the medical field as a whole.


What Is a Clinical Trial?

Clinical trials are medical tests performed on willing human participants to test new medications, treatments, diagnostic procedures, surgeries, and more. The trials are done to determine how safe the procedure is, and how effective it may be in treating various ailments.

Why Would Someone Participate In an Untested Medical Treatment?

There are a variety of reasons, and ultimately it depends on the individual. Many health volunteers say they participate out of a desire to help medical research. Patients may volunteer when traditional treatment methods are not working and preliminary clinical research seems more promising.

Is It Safe?

Clinical trials do come with some risks, but there are safeguards in place to minimize danger. First off, no one participates in a clinical trial without giving their explicit written permission, so do not worry- you will never be subject to experimental treatment without consent. Before researchers are given the go ahead to perform a clinical trial, they must meet rigorous ethical guidelines that ensure the test is being used to determine beneficial medical advancements, and will not intentionally harm any participants, among other things. Finally, most, though not all, U.S. clinical trials must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), which determines that’s all risks are minimal compared to the potential benefits. A thorough review is performed to ensure the rights of participants are protected and no unnecessarily dangerous procedures are involved.

How Can I Participate?

Clinical trials are done on a volunteer basis, though not all volunteers will necessarily be eligible to participate. Healthy volunteers are typically enlisted to test new drugs and diagnostic procedures. As there is nothing to cure, medical treatments are not typically tested on healthy volunteers. Their trials may involve nutritional studies, blood tests, and new technology testing. Patient volunteers typically join clinical trials to try out new treatment procedures. The results from a patient trial can prove, through scientific evidence, whether or not new treatments are effective. Patient volunteers are also sometimes part of a control group, and receive a placebo treatment to measure their progress against volunteers who receive the actual treatment. Your doctor will typically inform you if a clinical trial group is interested in using you as a subject.

What Are Inclusion/Exclusion Criteria?

Inclusion/Exclusion criteria is the list of factors that determine if a volunteer is eligible for a clinical trial. The specific criteria varies from trial to trial. There is no one criteria that all volunteers must meet, so there is no use trying to answer strategically to force your way into the trial. It can be dangerous to be involved in a trial for which you do not meet the necessary criteria, so be sure to answer all preliminary questions an organizer may ask you with complete honesty.

What Are the Benefits of Participating?

As a patient, you get to play an active role in your health care and contribute to the betterment of others who suffer from similar conditions. You also have access to new treatments not yet available to the general public. Just remember, with benefits come the risk of discomfort and injury. Have a doctor address all of your concerns before agreeing to participate.