Exploring New Options: Navigating the World of Clinical Trials

The purpose of clinical trials is to test new treatment options to determine whether they supersede the present standard of care. By conducting new clinical trials, researchers are constantly exploring alternative resolutions for care.

A Clinical Trial is a study of new drugs, a combination of drugs, and/or treatments to see how well they work against the current standard of treatment. Participation in clinical trials has strict eligibility protocol. An independent committee of physicians, statisticians and members of the community must oversee the eligibility requirements and overall trial to ensure the risks are minimal and the trial is worth the potential benefits.

When considering participation in a clinical trial, do not be afraid to ask questions or request a second medical opinion. The more you learn about your diagnosis and illness, the more in control you will feel. When diagnosed with a chronic, debilitating, or life-threatening illness, clinical trials are a great, cost-effective option to consider. This option becomes especially appealing when ongoing treatment is considered.

There are several different types of clinical trials that serve many different purposes.

  • Treatment Trials- These trials test experimental treatments, new drug combos and new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy
  • Prevention Trials- These trials look for better disease prevention methods including patients who have never had the disease and patients who have already been healed.
  • Diagnostic Trials- These trials explore better test or diagnosis procedure options for those affected by illness
  • Screening Trials- These trials test different methods of disease and health detection practices.
  • Quality of Life Trials- Also known as Supportive Care Trials, these trials find new ways to improve comfort and quality of life for individuals with a chronic illness.

Each clinical trial has four different phases designed to thoroughly test the new treatments being proposed

  • Phase 1: In this phase, researchers are studying to determine how the drug or treatment will be administered
  • Phase 2: In this phase, researchers are studying the results to measure effectiveness of the drug or treatment
  • Phase 3: In this phase, researchers are comparing the new treatment against the current standard of treatment
  • Phase 4: In this phase, researchers are monitoring the long-term safety and effectiveness of this treatment.

It is important to understand your rights and advocate on behalf of yourself during a clinical trial. You have the right to:

  • Understand your treatment options
  • Know what is involved in treatment including tests, risks and benefits
  • The right to discuss the trial with the investigator and research team
  • Hear and read info in language you can understand and ask additional questions, should they arise.

There a multitude of benefits to participating in a clinical trial including:

  • Having access to the latest and promising treatment options
  • Possibility the clinical trial approach may be more effective than the current standard care
  • Receiving regular and careful medical attention from a team of researchers, doctors, and other medical health professionals
  • Being the first to benefit under the new trial
  • Results from the study might help future patients diagnosed with the illness.

With the good, can come the (occasionally) not so good. There are several risks associated with participating in a clinical trial including:

  • New drugs and standard of care are not always better than what’s currently on the market
  • New treatments  have unforeseen side effects and risks
  • Patient care might not be fully covered
  • More doctor visits might be required.

An important note: Clinical trials can be safe. Most clinical trials are federally regulated to protect the participants.

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