The Importance of Volunteering in a Clinical Trial
I have always been someone that loves to volunteer and help the local community. I have participated in food drives, given back to the local animal shelter and volunteered at my local ambulance corp. Volunteers are apart of our everyday life, but they seem to be somewhat easily forgotten about. Think about it. You don’t often think about an EMT or volunteer firefighter- that is until you need them for something or utilize their services. Most of us have probably never thought about how clinical trial volunteers have helped us in our everyday life. All drugs and devices have gone through a clinical testing phase, patient volunteers have helped researchers understand the safety and effectiveness of the drug or device in order to further develop them. Just as a firefighter saves lives, clinical trial volunteers also have the ability to do the same. Without the data and research compiled from trials, there would be limited progression in medical interventions. Not only do clinical trials look for patients with underlying medical conditions, but they also look for healthy patient volunteers. You could help in the progression of medicine by being a volunteer.
What Types of Studies Require Human Volunteers?
Below you can see all the types of trials that require human volunteers. As you can see, not all studies revolve around medications or devices. Some studies look for prevention or ways to diagnose medical issues, but one thing that remains the same in these trials is that they require human volunteers.
- Natural History Studies- Provide information about the progression of diseases and illnesses
- Prevention Trials- better ways for prevention and reoccurrence of diseases
- Screening Trials- studies best ways to detect diseases and conditions
- Diagnostic Trials- studies what tests and procedures better diagnose certain diseases
- Quality of Life Studies- explores ways to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses
- Treatment Trials- tests new treatments i.e- drugs, surgery, radiation therapy
Clinical trials consist of 4 phases. These volunteers are an important part of drug, device, and procedure development. People volunteer for many different reasons, but often times these volunteers are battling harsh illnesses and want to try the newest, most innovative treatment options. Another reason people choose to participate in these studies are for financial reasons, they can’t afford medical care so they use these studies as an option for care. Not all clinical trial volunteers are sick, there are also healthy volunteers in clinical studies. Other volunteers are driven to progress the treatment options for future generations to come.
What is a “Healthy Volunteer”?
A healthy volunteer is someone with no known significant medical or health problems that participates in a new study. Healthy volunteers provide significant data that can be used as a baseline in clinical studies. Often times, researchers must compare data from healthy volunteers with those of people with specific diseases or illnesses. Healthy volunteers are recruited in order to serve as a control group in studies. According to the NIH Clinical Center, many times healthy volunteers are matched with someone that closely resembles them in regards to age, gender, and family relationships. They are then given the same treatment or procedure. It is said that many of these volunteers choose to participate because they want to help others, but also because they want to contribute to the progression of science and medicine.
Why Does Volunteering Matter?
Volunteers are needed to participate in clinical trials and to help progress medical discoveries. Without volunteers, clinical trials aren’t possible. Data is collected from all trial participants and studied to see how patients react to new drugs or medical procedures. This data is imperative in deciding the effectiveness of these new medical innovations. In addition, trials can test the effectiveness of new procedures to existing. Since technology is ever changing, there are constantly new devices and procedures being developed. Often times, it is assumed that clinical trials are meant for new medications. They also often carry the stigma that they cause harsh side effects. Although trials sometimes come with side effects, many patients never experience them. It is also important to note that not all trials are drug-related as they also help in the advancement of procedures and devices. All in all, real human data is how these advancements are made which is why human volunteers are so important.
Is it Safe to Volunteer in a Clinical Trial?
Although clinical trials may have side effects, there are many steps put in place to ensure patient safety. Researchers are required to follow strict rules that are enforced by the federal government in order to keep patients safe. In addition to federal government involvement, the Institutional Review Board or IRB must approve each study in the United States. The IRB is composed of mostly doctors and scientists, but also people part of the general population. Another process put in place to make sure patients are safe is the Informed consent process. This process takes place before a patient even begins to participate in a clinical trial and informs the patient of what to expect and what can possibly go wrong during the trial. After the informed consent process, a patient has the choice to decide if they would like to continue by participating in the trial or not. When a patient chooses to proceed, they will be asked to sign an informed consent paper. Even after this process, a patient may choose to leave the trial at any time, for any reason. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/clinical-trials-benefits-risks-and-safety
How Can TrialScout™ Help you Volunteer in a Clinical Trial?
TrialScout™ is a platform where former or current clinical trial participants can share their clinical trial experiences in order to help future volunteers make their research decisions. TrialScout is also helps patients interested in finding trials to participate in their surrounding area.
If you are currently seeking to participate in a clinical trial, visit https://www.trialscout.com/Home/FindClinicalTrial.
If you have already participated in a clinical trial and want to leave your review and help future patient volunteers, visit https://www.trialscout.com/Ratings/RateResearchCenter.
To learn more about clinical research and how you can volunteer, check out our blog. We are here to help you throughout your clinical trial journey.
Written by Francesca Dominianni
Francesca Dominianni is a Marketing and Strategy Intern at TrialScout. She is a full-time undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo studying both Marketing and Operations and Supply Chain Management. Outside of the classroom she holds leadership positions for both her sorority and the Inter-Greek Council. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family.