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Risks and Benefits of Participation in Clinical Trials

Posted by Karen Good, October 19, 2020

If you are struggling with an illness or chronic health condition, your doctor will use his or her best judgement to prescribe the course of treatment best geared for your situation. But what if you don’t make progress with standard drugs and treatments? You might wonder if newer innovations might be better suited to your situation, and whether you should participate in a clinical trial to find out.

What’s the risk? It’s important to remember that clinical trials are technically experiments, so the end results can be uncertain. However, most drugs and other treatments proceed through several phases of trials, often beginning with animals, so in most cases a relative degree of safety is assumed before you will be admitted to the study. It is still important to keep in mind that unexpected events can occur, even if they aren’t likely.

Also, remember that in some cases only half of study participants will receive the new drug or treatment. The other half receive a placebo (a substance with no effects, such as saline injections or a sugar pill). In these cases, you aren’t guaranteed to receive the experimental treatment, and therefore you won’t be “cured” or achieve a reduction of symptoms.

What are the benefits? The most obvious benefit of participating in a clinical trial is that you have the opportunity to receive cutting-edge treatments. You might achieve a cure, reversal of a disease, or reduction in symptoms that you were previously unable to obtain with treatments currently on the market.

By volunteering for a clinical trial, you also help science to advance. Your participation helps doctors to learn what works and what doesn’t work, so that they can offer better care to patients in your condition in the future.

Due to the intense monitoring you will receive in a clinical trial, you will benefit from highly attentive care. There are no guarantees of the outcome you want, but many patients report feeling very safe and reassured during the trial process.

If you’re interested in participating in a clinical trial, your physician is the best person to help guide you through this decision. They can explain the details of participation in greater detail and help you to decide if the potential benefits outweigh the risks for your individual situation.

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