Participating in a Clinical Trial: Pros, Cons, Questions to Ask

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There are many millions of dollars behind the creation of new drugs to treat depression. The company that comes out with the “next big treatment” stands to gain billions of dollars.

For all the money invested, however, no pharmaceutical company can declare success without patients who are willing to step up and be test subjects.

Potential Benefits

Perhaps the leading benefit is access to the newest possible treatments, which sometimes might be made available even after the trial is successfully completed.

Another benefit is access to treatment at a leading healthcare facility.

Most often, test subjects are compensated for their participation.

The mental and emotional benefits of knowing that you have contributed to the well-being of many others who have suffered depression can be of great benefit, as can the knowledge that you have taken an active role in achieving your own wellbeing.

Potential Risks

Taking an unproven drug can be risky, despite safeguards built into any testing protocol. It is not the risk of death or permanent damage so much as it is the risk of unanticipated side effects that could make the test subjects ill.

Test subjects might be given a placebo as a control, and not receive the drug being studied. Even if they do receive the drug, they might not receive any benefit from taking it.

While part of the trial, patients might not be able to take drugs that are effective for them.

The patient’s health insurance might not cover the cost of treating any resultant side effects.
The trials might require travel to distant locations, or even hospital stays.

Questions to Ask

  • What is the drug that is being tested? What is it expected to accomplish?
  • Will I be receiving the drug, or is there a chance I will receive a placebo?
  • How do the possible risks and benefits compare to the treatment I receive now?
  • What side effects can I expect?
  • What is required of me? What tests or procedures? What reporting?
  • How long will the study last?
  • Will I have to be hospitalized? How frequently? For how long?
  • Who will be responsible for treating any adverse effects I suffer as a result of the trial?
  • Will I receive any follow-up after the study is complete?
  • If the drug is effective, will I be given access to it after the study?
  • What type of medical care will I receive during the study, and who will provide it?
  • What form will my compensation take, and who is responsible for paying it?
  • Will I be reimbursed for travel and incidental expenses for my participation?
  • Will I receive the results of the study?

Sources: National Library of Medicine (NIH) and (NIH)

Photo Image courtesy: Rhoda Baer/NCI


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