Advantages of Clinical Trials

As I have said in previous columns, clinical research is vital for the advancement of medicine.

Since all new medications and treatments must legally go through several stages of clinical research before they are approved for use, it is easy to say that research is important.

Testing new treatments on human volunteers who are healthy as well as those with the targeted disorders are the only way to prove a new treatment's safety and effectiveness.

Necessity aside, what are the advantages for those who volunteer to participate in clinical research? Or are study participants simply allowing themselves to be guinea pigs for the sake of science?

As with any medical treatment, participation in clinical research involves both benefits and risks. I will discuss both in today's column.

First, when an individual decides to volunteer for a clinical study, he or she receives a thorough medical assessment with no obligation to continue beyond that. There is also no waiting period and volunteers receive immediate access to specialist services for which there can often be a lengthy waiting period under normal circumstances.

Not only are participants given quick access and a thorough evaluation, but appointments are not rushed. Patients have as much time as they need to have their questions and concerns heard.

Study participants are also able to take advantage of cutting edge treatments for their disorder and receive all medication, tests and procedures at no cost during the study.

To participate in a study, you do not need a referral from your family physician although you may be referred. In addition, it is completely at the discretion of the study participant whether he or she would like study information shared with a family physician.

Finally, in addition to these benefits, study participants have the more altruistic opportunity to help advance medical knowledge and treatments.

Risks are inherent in any medical treatment and it important to weigh them against potential benefits when deciding on what route to take. In the case of clinical research, all risks are fully explained to potential volunteers before the study begins.

One of the most common concerns with clinical research participation is the perception that the medication has never been taken before. This is generally not the case. All medications go through several stages of research to determine their safety before they are tested on people with the disorder.

Many drugs are already approved and being used for similar conditions. This is particularly common in psychiatric research. Where, for example, it is common for a popular antidepressant to be studied for its effectiveness in treating anxiety.

Regardless of the situation, the company conducting the study can tell you approximately how many people have already taken the study drug and can also give you details about its safety and any potential side effects before the study begins.

Another concern sometimes mentioned in relation to clinical research participation is the possibility of receiving a placebo (or non-active medication) during the study rather than the active drug.

Many studies use placebos in comparison to the active medication to determin a medication's actual effectiveness. When considering participation in a clinical study, you will be informed beforehand whether there is a chance you might receive a placebo.

Keep in mind that the decision to participate or not is always completely up to you. When involved in a clinical study you are never under any obligation to continue and are free to leave the study at any time if you are unhappy with the process or have remaining concerns.

Those who should not participate in clinical trials are those who are already satisfied with the treatment they are receiving. If, for example, you are on an antidepressant which is working and you are tolerating well, it would not make sense to stop it and try something else.

Also, participation requires reliability. You will be committing to attend your appointments according to a research protocol. If you know you are leaving town or that you will not be able to keep regular appointments, you should not participate.

Clinical research is one more option to consider when seeking treatment for a medical condition.

Okanagan Clinical Trials always has a number of ongoing studies for a variety of medical conditions. Contact us to find out if you meet the criteria for any current studies.


Current Studies

 Alzheimer's Disease 


 Parkinson's Disease





 Interested in participating? Call us for more information!