There’s an increasing body of evidence showing the benefits that people experience when they take part in clinical trials. This is important, because the involvement of the public in these trials is a vital part of the scientific process that helps us to find out whether new treatments are effective.
Direct and indirect health benefits
For many people, taking part in a trial satisfies their need to be of use in society and to help those suffering from illness. Sometimes, this is because they themselves have a disease or condition and feel that they are therefore well placed to judge the effectiveness of a new treatment. Some patients even feel a responsibility to contribute to the development of better treatments, even when they themselves may not benefit from them in the long term.
Others are well aware that taking part in the trial may be of direct health benefit to them. They may get early access to a new treatment that may eventually become the gold standard. They also get more information about their condition, so they feel that taking part in a trial will make them a more informed patient. Others feel that on a trial, they may be treated more quickly, and will get more specialised medical attention and better monitoring.
As part of giving informed consent to a trial, the participants are warned of any possible side effects or risks, so patients are able to weigh up the benefits for themselves.
Not all people taking part in clinical trials have illnesses or conditions that require treatment. Many are healthy volunteers, often taking part in clinical studies that pay, through organisations like Trials4Us (http://www.trials4us.co.uk/). For these people, the risk profile may be different, in that they don’t start from the position of being a patient looking for improvement in an existing condition.
However, many like the fact that they may receive a series of screening tests before participating in the trial. They find this useful, as it could pick up conditions that they are not aware that they have.
For both patients and healthy volunteers, many drug companies and research organisations will provide some compensation for time spent, and will reimburse out-of-pocket expenses. The more involvement that is required, or the more risk that the participant faces, the higher the compensation tends to be.