What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial determines whether a new drug or treatment is effective and safe before it’s sold on the open market. Most individuals depend on medications or remedies to combat illnesses and chronic conditions. For example, a new asthma medication might be tested to see if it helps patients who have asthma. All new procedures and drugs have to go through rigorous testing before they can be available to the public.
Are clinical trials safe?
Each clinical trial must have approval from an ethics committee and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Each new test undergoes review by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is a group of independent researchers, doctors, and community members. An IRB reviews a clinical trial to ensure the researchers will conduct it for ethical reasons, as well as protect all participants’ rights and safety throughout the study’s duration.
All new treatments and drugs go through up to four phases of clinical trials. Phase I includes testing on a small number of people, usually 20-100. In Phases II and III, the number of people steadily increases until the research team submits a new application to the FDA for approval. A Phase IV trial might occur to test the drug for any side effects after it’s been on the market.
There is no such thing as 100 percent safe, but the benefits of participating in a clinical trial typically outweigh the risks. Some participants benefit directly by getting a monetary incentive or honorarium. Participants also directly benefit when they see their medical conditions improve because of the clinical trial. All participants benefit indirectly when their participation leads to a treatment or medication that helps other people. The potential risks of participating in a clinical trial include possible side effects, the treatment not working, or participants not being able to choose which treatment they receive.
How can I participate in a clinical trial?
It’s relatively easy to find clinical trials that are currently recruiting participants. Laboratories, universities, and private companies continuously look for people who qualify for their studies. If you’re undergoing treatment for a medical condition, your doctor might know of a clinical trial that might benefit you. An internet search for clinical trials also might yield lists of clinical trials in your area.
Another way to find a clinical trial is to sign up with a laboratory to be on their volunteer list. Altus Research regularly seeks volunteers for a variety of clinical trials. Dr. Samuel Lederman, Medical Director and Principal Investigator, leads a group of researchers, project managers, and support personnel who are experienced in a wide range of medical fields, such as women’s studies, urology, pediatrics, and many others. On their website, you can complete the simple enrollment form to get updates on current clinical trials.