Clinical research trials are primarily investigations where volunteer patients are enlisted to test new treatments, medicines (e.g. drugs, vaccines), devices, or medical tests as a method for preventing, detecting, treating, or managing various diseases or medical conditions.
Often these investigations monitor how the volunteers react and what side effects may possibly occur to help determine if the product works if it is safe and if it is better than those already available.
Other instances are trials that evaluate current interventions (treatments, medicines, tests, etc) and test new ways to use or combine these or observe how volunteers respond to other factors that might affect their health.
Why consider taking part in a clinical trial?
When you choose to take part in a clinical trial, you are making a valuable contribution to the advancement of scientific expertise and understanding, which may also lead to better health for yourself or others with the same disease or condition.
The willingness of people to volunteer for, and participate in clinical trials, means a reduction in the time it takes for new interventions to become widely available. You will actively be helping people live longer, with less pain, or be free of disease or disability.
But there are many misunderstandings about clinical trials, which possibly contribute to trials struggling to find people to participate, as quickly as they would like. Let us take a look at some of these myths.
Aren’t clinical trials for those that are terminal, or very sick, with no other options available?
It can be true that some clinical trials are for those with no further treatment options available, however, more often, clinical trials are not for those diagnosed with a disease or condition. Healthy volunteers are also needed to help find new ways to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure disease and disabilities. Participating in a clinical trial can be a great way to give back to a community that is close to your heart.
And if you are diagnosed with a disease or condition, a clinical trial can be an opportunity to access new interventions before they are extensively available that could result in a better prognosis or cure for your disease area than other more widely available options. Patient participants often benefit from the highest quality care and you may also receive additional support from staff who have a deep understanding of your disease or condition.
What if I get a placebo and miss out on treatment?
In some biomedical trials, a new intervention is compared with a placebo. A placebo is a ‘dummy’ treatment, such as a sugar pill, that looks the same or is used the same way as the interventional substance, but that has no known health effect. If the patients who received the intervention have a better outcome compared to patients who received the placebo, this suggests that the intervention was effective.
It is important to note that placebos are not used if a patient would be put at risk, for example – in the study of treatments for serious diseases – by not being given effective treatment. Potential participants are told if placebos will be used in the trial before they agree to participate.
This information regarding placebos was sourced from the Australian Government Clinical Trials website as was published on 20 June 2020.
How to find a clinical trial?
There are several ways that you can find clinical trials relevant to your needs.
- You can discuss your willingness to participate in a trial with your healthcare providers such as your GP or specialist.
- The ANZCTR is an online registry of clinical trials being undertaken in Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. On this site, you can search for trials and access contact information for each specific trial.
- Through registration on a clinical trial registry site, these sites provide a bridge between potential participants and Australian clinical trials. You can view a list of these registries here.
For further information about how you can be involved in a clinical trial, we refer you to the government-run, consumer-friendly Australian Clinical Trials website.
This article was sponsored by Astra Zeneca and developed independently by the team at Pink Hope in consultation with medical experts.