Some of the most significant new therapies and treatments in modern medicine were born in clinical trials, including immunotherapy drugs to treat cancer, new standards of treatment for serious mental illness, new heart disease treatments, and the use of umbilical cord blood post-delivery to improve the health outcomes for premature infants.
Clinical trials are closely monitored research studies to test the effectiveness of new medicines, devices and therapies. They rely on the participation of informed and well-protected patients, who hope to find relief for themselves or contribute to cures that will benefit others.
"Volunteer participants are carefully selected and critical to the success of clinical trials. By partnering with us, they bring hope to those living with mental illnesses," says Dr. Michael Plopper, chief medical officer for Sharp Behavioral Health Services, who oversees several clinical trials related to Alzheimer's disease and mental health.
Here are six common myths about participating in clinical trials, and the facts behind them.
"There are plenty of volunteers for trials, so I'm not needed."Many clinical trials close because of lack of participants. A large and diverse group of participants allows researchers to better measure the effect of a drug or treatment across populations. Even when a sufficient number of patients are enrolled in a trial, many choose to or have to drop out of the trial, for personal or health reasons.
"There's no point if I don't get the study drug."Placebo-controlled trials are the best model to know if drugs are working, but that does mean that some people do not receive the study drug. However, many trials provide up to a 75 percent chance of getting a study drug.
"Trials involve too much time and effort."The duration of trials varies from a few weeks to several months, or even several years. It is an investment of time, but one that holds tremendous potential for patients and the discovery of new treatments. If there are barriers to participation for patients, transportation can be arranged, and many studies offer compensation for time and travel.
"I don't have insurance, so I can't participate."There is no cost to participate in a clinical trial and insurance is not required. Participants do not need to have coverage through Sharp to enroll in a trial at a Sharp site.
"I don't want to lose my own doctors."Participants continue to see their regular medical providers in addition to the experts involved in the study. Information is kept strictly confidential and is not included in patients' medical records.
"If there was a clinical trial that could help me, my doctor would have told me about it."With more than 250 clinical studies being conducted across the country and online, doctors may be unaware of which studies are available in their area.
- Alzheimer's disease
- Bipolar disorder
- Heart and vascular
- Major depression
- Newborn care
Learn more about clinical trials at Sharp hospitals.