Should You Participate in Clinical Trials?


For every medical intervention available today, there was a clinical trial. Most times, the drugs and treatment measures derived in the process do not become available to the public until after several years of experimenting with more trial groups. Although clinical trials have both benefits and risks, it is worth considering whether or not to participate in something that researchers are yet to verify. 

What is a Clinical Trial?

It is a form of research that evaluates the effect of new treatment methods or medical products on human health. It may compare a new treatment approach to one that is already in existence. The participants in the research are volunteers and no one knows whether the treatment would exacerbate or alleviate the health condition. 

This question; how long does a clinical trial take depends on the factors under study. A clinical trial aims at finding out the following: 

  • whether a treatment works
  • Is it a better option compared to what is already in existence?
  • Are there side effects?

Medicine has always involved experiments and series of tests. Without trials, humans are at great risk of receiving treatments that won’t work or will harm them.

What Happens During a Clinical Trial?

A clinical trial consists of 4 phases.

Phase 1:

Researchers administer the drug to volunteers; test whether there are side effects then adjust the dose. They start with smaller doses, and then increase gradually if they observe zero or mild side effects.

Phase 2:

Researchers administer the drug to a larger experiment group if phase 1 was successful.

Phase 3:

The drug is compared against a placebo. This means a group of sick people will receive the experimental dosage while the other group will get an existing treatment or none. This could take several months or years.

Phase 4: 

If the trial was successful up to phase 3, the drug may get a license to appear on prescription lists. However, researchers will continue testing its efficacy, safety, and side effects. You may want to watch this video to learn more about the phases of clinical trials.

Benefits of Clinical Trials

The benefits of clinical trials include the following:

  1. Access to new drugs or treatment techniques before they become available to the public.
  2. Close interactions with doctors
  3. Access to resources and support groups
  4. Access to a variety of treatment options
  5. You could get sponsorship to cover all or a part of the expenses
  6. You become an active player in your health issues 
  7. You could be helping people who have a similar health condition to further research in that area.

Potential Risks of Clinical Trials

The potential risks of participating in clinical trials are:

  1. The drug or therapy may be ineffective
  2. It may not be better than the standard treatment
  3. It may result in discomfort or severe side effects
  4. Because the selection is done randomly, you may fall into the placebo group, which means you will either get the standard treatment or none at all. 
  5. If it is a blind experiment, you and the doctor may be oblivious of the drug. However, the treatment information will be available to the research team.
  6. The research takes time and could inconvenience you. You may have to travel to the research site or stay in a hospital. 
  7. If you do not get sponsorship, you have to pay from your pocket. 

Your insurance will not cover the following:

  • The study treatment or therapy
  • Items that are not related to patient care but required for sample collection and analysis
  • Services that are not in accordance with standard care practices 

Therefore, before you participate in a clinical trial, contact your insurer to know what is covered and what isn’t. You should also take note of what the researchers are willing to pay. You can check out to learn more about the costs of a clinical trial.

Should You Agree to Participate in a Clinical Trial?

Whether or not to participate in a clinical trial is totally up to you. However, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • Why do you want to participate in the research?
  • What are your expectations? Are they realistic?
  • Do the doctors have a positive feeling about the outcome of the experiment?
  • What does the future hold for you if you decide to participate (or not to participate)?
  • Are you well-informed to make your decision?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the risks or are they the other way round?
  • Will you get sponsorship or can you bear the costs involved?
  • Have you considered other options?

The Bottom Line

Just like every other treatment, you are not sure of what will happen if you participate in a clinical trial. It may work for others but not for you. The treatment may not even have a stronger effect than the standard treatment. Worse still, it may expose you to severe side effects.

Also, remember that you have to travel to the research site frequently. You may also require frequent testing or close monitoring. Therefore, if your health condition can’t accommodate such a level of mobility, it may worsen the condition. You can decide to leave the trial at any time, especially if it threatens your health.