Clinical trials play a major role in bringing new drugs and medical devices to market, and patient participation in research studies is critical to determining whether a product will be effective.
“Without volunteers participating in clinical research, medical advances simply cannot be made,” says DeAnn Cary, director of clinical trials for Sharp HealthCare.
“Unfortunately, there are some common misconceptions many people have about clinical trials that prevent them from participating and thus missing out on the opportunity to contribute to medical advances that might pave the way to a cure or better treatment for a variety of ailments,” she says.
Cary counters these four common misconceptions:
“There are plenty of volunteers already.”
“This cannot be further from the truth,” says Cary. “More participants are needed for clinical trials across the board. Just within the Sharp system here in San Diego County, there are currently more than 200 clinical trials in a variety of areas, including cancer, heart and vascular, mental health, newborn care, and more. Nationally, there are more than 200,000 clinical trials in progress, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and that number grows every year.”
“I don’t want to be a guinea pig. These trials are dangerous.”
“By the time the trial gets to a stage where it can work with human participants it has gone through extensive scrutiny,” says Cary. “Most trials are federally regulated with built-in safeguards to protect participants.”
“It’s too late to participate. I should have joined a study years ago.”
“There are clinical trials for every stage of a disease,” says Cary. “You can often participate at any stage in most studies and contribute to the research in a meaningful way.”
“If I join a trial, that means giving up working with my own doctors and changing all of my medications.”
“In most cases, a clinical trial is in addition to many of the medications you are already on,” says Cary. “The expert trial team will work closely with your personal doctor and other care providers to ensure you continue to receive the appropriate level of care.”
Patients and families interested in learning more about clinical trials can visit www.clinicaltrials.gov, a comprehensive database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies around the world. The Sharp Center for Research offers additional patient resources online.
Cary adds that patients who participate in clinical trials may be able to receive the newest treatments, receive additional care and attention from expert staff and contribute to important research.
“When it comes to clinical trials, the bottom line is that without participants it is impossible for medical science to find much-needed cures and treatments,” she says. “Every medicine that we have today is the result of clinical research that was done in the past with the help of pioneering patients.”