What You Need to Know Before Joining a Clinical Trial


Clinical trials are exciting options if you suffer from anything from acne to anxiety to heart disease. There are trials for everything because biomedical research is a vast field that is always making advances. These trials can be an excellent opportunity for you.

For some, it might be a last-ditch attempt at saving their own life. For others, it might be a great way to deal with a mild health issue while making a bit of cash. Either way, you’ll be one of the people paving the way for new, safer treatments for a variety of problems.

But that doesn’t mean you should just go out and sign up for whatever you can find. There are risks to getting involved in clinical trials. Find out what you need to know before you join.

How to Find One

If you’re one of the few people who hasn’t seen a clinical trial offer in your Facebook news feed, there are still plenty of ways to find them. Most of the trials are going to happen at large hospitals, so if you live nearby, you have a better shot of getting in. The more well-known the hospital is, the better the trials are likely to be.

If you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, the FDA has a page where you can search for it. They’re required to monitor all the clinical trials in the country, so their database is chock full of everything you might be considering.

Read Everything

You’ll be given enough reading to cover your summer reading list, but you’ve got it for a reason. It’s vital to read everything you possibly can. This is a trial, after all, so you’re a test subject. As with any other medical procedure, you’re required to have “informed consent,” and that will be one of the documents you’re asked to sign.

This does not bind you to a contract. If you want to withdraw from the study, you can. But read about it. Some trials you may not be able to stop cold-turkey, especially if you’re working with a new kind of drug.

Pay Means Risk

Earlier, smaller trials pay more because the risks aren’t as well established. So while the pay is greater, you’ll want to consider how much it’s worth to you seriously. The earlier the study is, the less it’s understood. These studies are easier to get into if you can make it in time. Usually, they’ll monitor healthy adults, so you might not even need to have any conditions. The reason they ask for healthy people, though, is that they don’t know what the effects will be. Factor that into your decision.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

On the same note, just because a trial is large doesn’t mean it’s a good one. The bigger trials have a better chance of being a double-blind study, meaning one group will be getting placebos. The best part of a double-blind is even the researchers don’t know which is which.

Some people wouldn’t want to take the risk of getting a placebo. Luckily, there is no way to be ethically tricked into it. Any study with placebos requires the participants to be informed of the possibility. And because studies are always done with volunteers, you can leave before it starts. Make a solid choice though. Sometimes once treatment is started, it can be difficult to stop. Another reason doing all the reading is so important!

But Safety Is the Top Priority

Even though the potential side effects and adverse reactions aren’t fully documented, trials don’t make it to human studies without ample study. The researchers are almost always pretty sure of what they can expect, and none of them are interested in seriously harming someone. Additionally, the FDA, institutional review boards, Office of Human Research Protections and individual monitoring teams are all set up to keep participants safe.

Payment Depends on the Phase

The phase of the trial depends on how safe the study is known to be, which affects how much you’ll be paid. However, the area of research you’re in will factor as well. An acne study isn’t going to pay as much as a study on heart disease for a variety of reasons. First of all, acne isn’t as much of a threat, and the treatments are likely to pose a lesser risk.

Earlier Trials Are Better

If you’re looking for cutting-edge advancements with a higher pay grade, earlier trials are the way to go. Also, you’ll have a better chance of getting selected since the trials are aimed more towards the general public. The more advanced the trial, the more the target group will be narrowed down.

The longer the trial has progressed, the more likely it is to be an interventional study instead of a clinical trial. The two are vastly different, and understanding which one you’re signing up for is important. It’ll help you understand what to expect and what the end goal of the trial will be, which in turn helps you know what you can get out of it.

This Is Not a Job

Lastly, this is not a job. You cannot participate in clinical trials to pay your rent. It’s too dangerous. Each trial requires an investment from you in things like time, travel and risk. You’ll get paid as well, but you can’t jump from one trial to another. This goes double if you’re taking any medications with the trials or if you have an ongoing health condition.

Clinical trials are good. They help science progress, increase the availability and efficacy of treatments and help people for less. There are some downfalls, such as not being able to get into one, not always knowing if you’ll get treatment or a placebo and not having a solid understanding of the side effects.

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