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Clinical Trial Chronicles: The Pros and Cons of Signing Up

Clinical Trial Chronicles: The Pros and Cons of Signing Up

In another post I addressed what you need to know before signing up for a clinical trial, this article will address the pros and cons. I hope this helps you put all things in perspective on making an informed decision for you and your family before signing up. Please be advised most of the pros are given based on you actually receiving the treatment and not a placebo.

The Pros

  • You may receive a highly effective drug before the general population. This fact is contingent upon whether or not the drug actually works.
  • You receive treatment at no cost to you. Regardless of whether the drug works for you or does not, you will receive treatment for free, and in that case, you have nothing to lose financially. Have you ever spent hundreds of dollars on a medicine out of pocket or through a co-pay only for the drug to fail you and not work? Of course, you don’t know if it’s effectiveness unless you try it first, but spending that type of money for something that does not work is disheartening and discouraging.
  • You can receive treatment if you don’t have insurance. Many people don’t treat their disease because they don’t have insurance, thus they can’t afford to see a doctor or pay for treatment. Others may have insurance but are denied certain treatments for one reason or another. Entering a clinical trial allows you to receive treatment for free, thus you don’t have to worry about paying or insurance approval.
  • You are more likely to adhere to treatment requirements. Some treatments require more of our attention than others. For me personally, it’s hard for me to use a treatment that requires my attention 2-3 times a day like your typically topical. On the other hand, I’ve more likely to comply with something that only requires my attention once a month for something such as a biologic. The downside is if you don’t use a medicine exactly as directed the effectiveness will vary. Dr. Johnathan Weiss of Gwinett Dermatology, with whom I interviewed in the previous article on clinical trials, advises that most times a patient in a clinical trial will more likely adhere to treatment requirements versus an individual, not in a study. This is probably due to the strenuous monitoring that occurs during clinical trials.
  • Participants are often paid.The amount of money you are paid varies, but participants are often paid for being a part of the study and a little extra money will never hurt.

The Cons

  • You could receive a placebo. There are two groups in a clinical study which include the control group and experimental group. The experimental group receives the treatment and the control group receives the placebo. The placebo is the treatment that looks identical to the treatment but doesn’t have an active ingredient or components. You will not know which group you are being placed in. The upside is some studies may switch you to the experimental group after the initial trial, but it depends on the study.
  • It may require a lot of your time. Being a part of a clinical trial could mean a lot of time commitment on your part for doctor visits, lab testing, and reports. Some treatments only require a visit once a month while others could require lab work once a week.
  • You are the first one to be subjected to side effects. In a clinical study you are the first to have access to a particular treatment, but you are also the first to encounter any side effects that are found to be associated with the drug through the clinical trial. If it is found that certain side effects are common among participants and dangerous than the drug will probably not be submitted to the FDA for approval and the study will end. At this point adjustments to the drug may be made and restudied at a later time.
  • You may have to stop the treatment after the trial is over. The treatment might work for you but at the end of the trial, it may not be approved by the FDA which means it will not be placed on the market as a prescription option, or once approved it can become too expensive for one to afford. The healthcare team who has been working with you should help provide resources regarding you continuing and affording treatment, but it varies and depends on the doctor.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.