Clinical trials present an opportunity for many people to seek alternative treatment options for a range of illnesses and diseases, and are also often undertaken by those who have an interest in contributing to science and medicine by giving their time to clinical research.
There are indeed many benefits to clinical research, including the often improved outcomes of certain people with serious and non-serious medical conditions and a higher standard of care. With that said, there are also several negative myths that persist about these trials that can prevent people for signing up and enjoying many of these very real benefits.
The first myth about clinical research is that it is dangerous to participate in them, as the outcome of any given treatment is not yet adequately known by the researchers administering it. While it is true that the treatments have not yet been approved and long term studies about the risks and benefits of the treatment may not have taken place yet, this is not the whole picture.
In reality, treatment options that are available in trials have undergone extensive testing before they are even administered to humans, and when they are this treatment is only able to be administered if many strict regulations and safeguards are respected. It is extremely rare that something ‘goes wrong’ with clinical trials, and this is not enough of a reason in some cases to forgo them altogether.
The second major misconception is that by undergoing clinical research for a particular illness you will be forgoing conventional, proven treatment. This is not true, partly due to one of the safeguards mentioned above.
The reality is that new drugs or treatments will not be administered if other treatment options are still viable, and if not undergoing these treatment options will potentially cause a negative outcome of the patient. For this reasons, many of the people who undergo clinical trials have effectively ‘run out’ of other desirable treatment options.
This is not to say that you can only enjoy the many benefits of trials if you are someone who is suffering from a serious illness that has no other treatment options to try; conversely, there are many trials that aim to provide alternative and complementary therapies and treatments which will potentially work alongside the treatment that you are currently undergoing.
The third myth that persists about clinical research is that once a patient enrols on a program, they cannot back out of it. Alternatively, some people will believe that stopping a research program part way through can actually has negative consequences on their health and condition. This is not necessarily true.
It is absolutely possible to drop out of the trial at any time, and you will be made fully aware in advance about any risks associated with discontinuing treatment during the process. This way you will be able to make an informed decision about stopping the treatment in the first place, and will know any possible risks that you face if you do drop out at any point.
The last myth that exists is that often placebos are used in trials which aim to treat serious conditions. This is a real concern for many people, as they are concerned that they could be missing out on a life saving treatment if they are part of a placebo control group.
However, any potential participants can rest assured that this is not the case. In the instance of serious illnesses, placebos are not used, and instead different treatments are often contrasted. If a patient were to be given a placebo in the case of a serious illness, this would have to be very clearly outlined before the clinical research was to start.