Clinical trials are indispensable to the medical community because they help doctors and researchers find new ways to treat diseases. They can also offer patients a chance to try a potential treatment and help future patients diagnosed with the same disease. However, due to the availability of misinformation on the internet, clinical trials have been given unfair labels by some in public opinion.

Let’s take a look at some of the common myths around clinical study:

Myth: Clinical trials treat patients like guinea pigs

Absolutely not! Clinical research is a collaborative effort. Patients are never treated as if they were some sort of experiment. The care received in a clinical trial is of the highest quality and some patients may even forget that the treatment they receive is part of the research process! Patient health is consistently monitored, which allows researchers to adjust treatment as necessary to improve patients’ quality of life or response rates.

Myth: Patients only receive placebos in clinical trials

Placebos, treatments that look identical to what is being studied but do not actually affect this illness, are sometimes used in clinical research as a way of helping to identify whether or not a new therapy works better than the standard one. To help reduce bias, patients (and sometimes staff) are not told which participants receive placebos over the course of a study. The consent form that every patient signs will always say whether a placebo will be used in the course of the clinical trial. The use of placebos is a rare occurrence in clinical trials but, if you do not feel comfortable, you always have the option to withdraw.

Myth: Participation in a clinical trial means giving up all other treatments

This is not necessarily true. It really depends on the individual patient and the circumstances of the study. Some researchers may even ask patients to continue with their current treatment plan while participating in the hope that the combination will give them the best results. Remember, should you decide to leave a clinical trial for any reason, you can always return to your original method of treatment.

Myth: Clinical trials result in extra costs not covered by insurance.

Insurance companies are required by federal law to cover routine costs (office visits, blood work, tests, etc.) regardless of whether it takes place in standard care or within a clinical trial. Extra testing or procedures that may be required as part of the study but not paid for by insurance will typically be covered by the trial sponsor. The administrative staff of the study will review all out-of-pocket costs, if any, that could potentially come up over the course of the trial.

Myth: Seeking treatment in a clinical trial is a last resort

No two patients come into a clinical trial with the exact same circumstances. For some, treatment received in a study is supplemental to the standard care that they are already getting. There are, of course, also those patients for whom all other options have been exhausted. While some clinical trials focus on terminally ill patients, many studies also want healthy volunteers. This helps researchers collect data that can be used to compare with those who have a specific disease or condition. Healthy volunteers can also help researchers learn more about a disease.

Joining a clinical trial can give patients choices and access to investigational treatments they wouldn’t have otherwise. Researchers are always looking for better ways to prevent, detect, and treat diseases. Clinical trial participants are a vital part of this lifesaving work.

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