Clinical trials are a vital tool in research for the advancement of medical knowledge and also, patient care in general. They are research studies that involve people and are designed with the major aim of improving the health of patients and their quality of life.1
The importance of clinical trials2 cannot be overemphasized. They help determine:
• If a new treatment works
• How effective it is compared to other existing options
• If the new treatment has any side effects
While very good treatment options are available for some conditions, there are still some other conditions that require better options. Clinical trials are at the heart of all medical developments. They are vital in the discovery of new treatments for ailments, and also new ways to prevent, detect and diagnose such ailments.3 Clinical trials serve as a means for researchers to determine what works or does not work in humans. New interventions, drug or treatment options cannot be certified for use until they have passed the clinical trial stage. However, without volunteers, clinical trials cannot take place.
Who is a Volunteer?
A volunteer is anyone, either healthy or with a medical condition, that participates in a clinical trial. Volunteers are an important part of clinical trials, and they are crucial in the development of medical interventions that may provide better treatment options and even cures for potentially fatal and chronic diseases. Healthy people, as well as people with disease conditions, have roles they can play in clinical trials. You can visit ClinicalMatch to get more details on how to become a volunteer.
Why People Volunteer for Clinical Trials
Over the years, it has been observed that people volunteer for clinical trials because of a couple of reasons. Below are some of the reasons people volunteer to participate in clinical trials:
• To aid the advancement of medical knowledge
A high proportion of people volunteer for clinical trials in a bid to help medical knowledge advance. They recognize the fact that clinical trials are a necessary step in taking new medical interventions from the researcher to patients that need them. Such people see volunteering for clinical trials as an opportunity to contribute to research and improve the health of other people.
• To get access to the newest, promising treatments
Volunteers with medical conditions participate in clinical trials to improve their health. They know clinical trials are opportunities to receive the newest, most promising treatments before they become widely available. Nevertheless, all clinical trial medications must have passed stern FDA standards4 before they can be used on the participants. Clinical trials are also a means of getting expert medical care and attention from professionals 5.
• They receive compensation
Most often, you get monetary compensation or some other form of payment for the time and effort invested in a clinical trial. While some people volunteer for clinical trials because of the money attached, some others consider the money as a bonus.
• Recommendation/ Referral
Many patients only volunteer for clinical trials after recommendation by their healthcare provider, relatives, friends or some other people they trust. Healthcare professionals particularly play a huge role in increasing the awareness and participation of their patients in clinical trials.6 This is as a result of the trust that has been built over time.
Why Some People Don’t Volunteer for Clinical Trials
Despite the enthusiasm of some people about volunteering for clinical trials, there are still some others that scare away from clinical trials. Here are some of the reasons preventing people from volunteering for clinical trials:
• They lack awareness
Some people do not volunteer for clinical trials simply because they are not aware of what clinical trials are, and do not understand the importance of clinical trials. It was observed in a study that only one in three adults had knowledge about clinical trials.7 Lack of awareness is one of the most common challenges the research industry needs to solve. The more aware people are, the more the tendency for them to participate.
This is another important reason people do not volunteer. People are instinctively scared of the unknown.8 Most people are not sure what to expect, the possibility of side effects and the impact the trial might have on their health in general. At ClinicalMatch, the safety of the patient is of utmost priority, the oversight of which is enforced in every clinical trial conducted.
• Doubts regarding their qualification
According to a survey conducted by Research!America9, 80% of the respondents claim that an important qualification factor is a physician’s recommendation, without which they would not participate. Also, many people think they would not qualify because most trials have stringent requirements for eligibility10 to participate.
People also scare away from clinical trials because they fear that the cost of the trial would not be covered by the insurance company. Health insurance plans vary, and as such, some plans might not cover for every trial.11 You can contact your insurance provider to be sure about your coverage.
There are some people who are willing to volunteer but later on realize that they would not be able to commit due to several reasons. Some of them come to find that the available study hours are not compatible with their schedule. Distance is also a hindrance for some if they cannot find any study location nearby.
• Lack of patient-centricity
Participants want to be assured that they would be cared for and also listened to. They do not just want to feel like experimental subjects but want to be assured that their opinions and experiences would matter to the doctors and the eventual outcome of the trial.8
• Lack of follow-up
Some people fear that they would be abandoned after the trial has been completed. They want to know their role mattered in the research. At ClinicalMatch, not only do we follow-up on the outcome of the research, but also follow up on the general health and wellbeing of the participants during and after the trial phase.
1. What are clinical trials, and why do we need them. Adapted from https://healthtalk.org/clinical-trials/what-are-clinical-trials-and-why-do-we-need-them
2. The importance of clinical trials. Adapted from https://ntminfo.org/the-importance-of-clinical-trials/
3. Why should I participate in clinal trials? Adapted from https://www.nih.gov/health-information/nih-clinical-research-trials-you/why-should-i-participate-clinical-trial
4. Drug development and approval process. Adapted from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/development-approval-process-drugs
5. Five reasons you should participate in clinical trials. Adapted from https://www.agingresearch.org/five-reasons-you-should-participate-in-clinical-trials/
6. Physician referrals for clinical trials. Adapted from https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/161061/physician-referrals-for-clinical-trials-the-holy.html
7. Patient evaluation and recruitment strategies. Adapted from https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/evaluation-patient-recruitment-strategies-phase-i-feasibility-study
8. Reasons people are not enrolling in your clinical trial. Adapted from https://www.imperialcrs.com/blog/2015/10/25-reasons-people-arent-enrolling-in-your-clinical-trial/
9. Clinical Research Survey. Adapted from https://www.researchamerica.org/sites/default/files/July2017ClinicalResearchSurveyPressReleaseDeck_0.pdf
10. Modernizing eligibility criteria could increase access to participation in clinical trials. Adapted from https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/home/cancer-types/general-oncology/modernizing-eligibility-criteria-could-increase-access-to-participation-in-clinical-trials/