What to Know Before Joining a Trial

There are benefits and risks that face all patients when taking drugs on the market for their specific disease, and benefits and risks in participating in a clinical trial.

For example:

  • If you qualify to be in a clinical trial and have had difficulty finding quality care, you may find access to improved care and oversight since the investigators involved focus directly on the medical problem being studied.
  • The drugs and protocols offered during clinical trials are often provided at no cost to participants.
  • Some patients have no alternatives to treatments as their condition worsens. A clinical trial can sometimes offer hope.
  • Many trials need women, minorities and even children to test good drugs and broaden use.
  • Sometimes patients won’t know if they are receiving the experimental drug, a previously approved drug, or placebo (dummy drug). Therefore, you usually have a 50% chance of receiving the new treatment.
  • There may be side effects or outcomes that are unpleasant.
  • The time and attention required may be difficult and involved.
  • New doesn’t always mean better.

In order to participate in a clinical trial, you must be eligible which is determined by meeting a number of criteria. After you have considered the risks and benefits with your healthcare team, family members, or caregivers, you should ask the following questions of your doctor and the investigators to determine whether your participation is right for you.

  1. What is the purpose of the trial?
  2. What profile are you seeking in a participant?
  3. Has the protocol, drug or therapy been tested before?
  4. What are the possible risks and side effects? (contraindications)
  5. What are the benefits of participation?
  6. Will my participation remain confidential? (Must follow HIPPA privacy laws)
  7. How will this trial affect my daily activities?
  8. How long will the trial last?
  9. Will I need to be hospitalized?
  10. How will the costs be handled, including transportation?
  11. If I do well on the experimental drug, what happens to me after the trial? How do I get access to the drug?
  12. Will my insurance cover any other costs related to my participation?
  13. What safeguards are in place for problems?
  14. Can I drop out while the trial is underway?

Clinical trials offer hope for many people and an opportunity to help researchers find better treatments for so many diseases. It is an admirable role to play in the process if you find yourself willing and able to do so. Clinical trials are at the heart of all medical advances. Always consult your physician(s) and healthcare team when contemplating such a decision.