When you pick up allergy medication or a bottle of Ibuprofen at the drugstore, you probably don’t consider all of the research and testing behind it. But the truth is that without clinical research trials, those treatments wouldn’t be sitting on a store shelf, available for you to purchase.
Clinical trials benefit patients in many different ways, both during the trials themselves and long after they’re completed.
Clinical Trial Volunteers May Receive Cutting Edge Treatments
Clinical trials are performed in four phases, beginning with a test of the new treatment’s safety with a very small number of volunteers. Once safety is established, the number of participants increases during Phase II and Phase III. Depending on the type of drug being tested, clinical research teams may seek the participation of individuals with specific diseases or disabilities.
For example, patients with conditions ranging from breast cancer and lupus to lung disease and traumatic brain injuries may be requested to participate in a clinical trial for a treatment with the potential to improve or cure their condition.
Phase II and Phase III clinical trials are typically randomized, which means each participant has a chance of receiving either the new trial drug or a standard existing treatment. In cases where no current standard treatment exists, the control group may receive a placebo or no treatment at all.
Overall, this gives clinical trial volunteers an opportunity to receive new, cutting edge treatments that aren’t available to the general public. This is especially important for chronic and aggressive diseases such as coronavirus, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
Participants Contribute to Medical Advancements
Clinical trials also give patients the opportunity to contribute to medical advancements. By volunteering their time, effort, and medical information, patients give researchers access to valuable data used to determine whether treatments are safe and effective.
Many patients, sick and healthy alike, take pride in the ability to contribute to scientific progress and make the world a safer place for their loved ones. Dr. Neal Thomas, associate dean of clinical research at Penn State College of Medicine, sees this every day. “A lot of people say things like ‘even if this won’t help my child, if it could help the next generation of children that come through with this problem, then it’s worth it,’” Thomas shared.
Volunteers Receive Close Monitoring and Care From Research Team
Clinical trial volunteers also benefit from close monitoring and care from their research team. In many cases, it’s more medical attention than they could ever afford to receive from their physician or local hospital. Side effects are noticed and handled immediately.
As Thomas explained, volunteers “can be assured that the research is being done to answer an important scientific question… The overarching goal is to improve the care of the patients we treat, whether that’s the individual patient who is recruited for the research study or future patients with the same disease.”
Clinical Trials Identify Side Effects and Safe Dosages
The carefully organized clinical trial process makes it possible to identify specific side effects, health benefits, and dosage recommendations for all new drugs and treatments. Without this information, drug manufacturers and doctors would have no way to control the safe use of pharmaceuticals or recommend correct treatment protocols to patients.
Overall, the people who take part in clinical trials, from the research teams to the volunteers, are critical to the process of improving medical care for people around the country who need it most.