A Quick Guide to Participating in Clinical Trials

By Abigail Aaronson

When you’re facing a serious health condition, clinical trials can provide solutions when traditional treatments aren’t working. Pharmaceutical companies and other researchers use these tests in developing therapies on human patients. By getting involved, you can gain access to some of the health care industry’s most cutting-edge research.

Step 1: Review the Protocol

The protocol for your targeted research study includes vital information. Your review can often tell you whether or not you’re eligible for the program. Look for information such as:

* Why the pharmaceutical company, university, doctor, or other party is conducting clinical trials * The eligibility criteria * How many participants are needed * How long the study will last * Where the study will take place * The schedule for drugs, tests, or procedures that are part of the study * What information the researchers may gather about your case.

Step 2: Analyze the Eligibility Criteria

Most studies have both inclusion and exclusion criteria for eligibility. Inclusion criteria are factors that allow a person to participate in a study. In contrast, exclusion criteria are factors that would prevent a person from participating. Criteria for both inclusion and exclusion may include:

* Age * Gender * Type of disease * Stage of the disease * Prior treatment history * Other medical history * Other conditions you may have

Step 3: Understand the Risks

If you determine that you’re a candidate for clinical trials, then take some time to make sure that you understand the risks. This process, called “informed consent,” means that you give researchers permission to include you in the study with a full understanding of what may happen. Make sure to ask about:

* The potential safety risks of the treatment being researched * Whether you may receive medical benefits * Any risk of harm or injury * Whether the experiment could worsen your condition * How researchers plan to integrate the study with your current treatment regimen

Step 4: Talk to Your Doctor

Before signing up for clinical trials, take some time to talk to your primary care doctor or to the specialist that is treating you. These medical professionals know your case better than the researchers do, so they can provide you with important insights. They can also advise you about whether or not you should participate. Your primary care doctor or specialist may also play a role in the study by administering experimental medication or other therapies to you, so make sure that your doctor(s) feel comfortable performing these tasks.

Step 5: Talk to Your Family

Clinical trials can be sources of both anticipation and anxiety for families. Talk to your loved ones about what to expect, what costs and risks are involved, and what medical benefits you may receive. You’re more likely to achieve a positive outcome when your family supports your decision to participate. If you experience side effects from experimental treatments, then you’ll also need to rely on your loved ones for assistance.

In addition to finding potential treatments for your illness, participating in research studies gives doctors a chance to learn things that may benefit future patients. You’re doing a favor not only for yourself but also for others that may benefit from new treatments.

For Clinical trials, New Orleans offers the excellent facilities at West Jefferson Medical Center. Learn more at http://www.wjmc.org.

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