Every year, researchers look for volunteers to take part in clinical trials to evaluate new drugs, devices or medical treatments. The best place to start if you want to join a clinical trial as a treatment option is to talk to your doctor or another member of your health care team.
If you decide to look for a clinical trial on your own, here are some steps to guide you.
Look for clinical trial websites
Clinical studies are funded by academic medical centers, pharmaceutical companies, federal agencies and other organizations.
For example, on the National Cancer Institute’s website, you will find NCI-supported clinical trials that take place across the United States, Canada, and internationally. ClinicalTrials.gov is another website that lists clinical trials for many diseases and conditions.
If you want to take part in paid pharmaceutical studies, you may help patients live longer or improve the quality of their lives and be paid for your efforts at the same time.
On these websites, you will be able to find a contact person whom you are able to reach by email or phone to ask about participating.
Determine whether you’re eligible
All clinical trials have guidelines about who can take part. You need to check eligibility criteria as they are designed to determine whether you will benefit from the treatment or expose yourself to risks. For example, a pregnant woman should not take part in drug trials that could potential affect the fetus.
It can be as simple as contacting the organization or research center and answering a few questions. If you may be a match, you are likely to have to undergo a complimentary physical assessment and review of your medical history. At this stage, you should be able to ask questions to find out more about the study.
Take a closer look and ask questions
The following questions can help you to determine whether you’d like to participate in a particular trial and satisfy yourself about the conditions that come with it.
- What is the main purpose of the trial?
- Who is funding the trial?
- How long will the trial last?
- What happens if I want to leave the trial before it ends?
- Do I need to take time off work?
- What appointments and extra tests will I have?
- Are travel costs to take part covered?
- Will I need extra support from family or friends?
- If the trial is testing a drug, how will I receive it?
- Will I have to fill in questionnaires?
- What are the possible side effects?
- Who can I contact if I have a problem?
- How do I find out the results at the end of the trial?
Read and sign ‘informed consent’ document
After you qualify for a trial, and before treatments can begin, you will have to read and sign an ‘informed consent’ that shows you have been informed fully about the trial and satisfied about the conditions.
Participate in the trial
Once you’ve signed, you are ready to participate in the clinical trial. There are various different research stages, starting off with few participants, extending to 100 to 300 people to test safety and effectiveness and then treating much larger groups of people.
In the third phase, there is usually a control group and a treatment group. You are randomly assigned to one of the groups and you can’t choose. If you are in the group given a placebo, you won’t know if you are getting it or the experimental therapy.