Clinical trials are research studies. They check the safety and effectiveness of new ways to diagnose and treat illnesses. Clinical trials related to asthma, allergies, eczema and related conditions may focus on:
- new medications and treatments
- medical devices;
- medical procedures;
- quality of life.
Here are 5 common myths about participating in clinical trials:
Myth: Participating in a clinical trial won’t help me.
Fact: Benefits include:
- Taking an active role in your own health
- Possible access to new treatments
- Careful medical attention
- Offering hope to other patients
- Advancing scientific and medical knowledge
Keep in mind there may be risks. Unknown side effects may arise from new medications and procedures. And there is no guarantee your condition will improve. Consider benefits and risks before participating.
Myth: Participants are not protected.
Fact: Built-in safeguards and strict guidelines are part of the process. Screening and testing help protect participants legally and ethically.
- Informed consent documents detail the purpose, duration, risks and benefits. Before signing it, be sure to request an explanation of anything you don’t understand.
- When you sign the consent form, you agree to follow the guidelines of the trial. But you can leave the trial at any point, even after starting treatment.
- Ask if the trial is IRB-reviewed. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) is composed of physicians, scientists and community members. The IRB ensures medical safety and protection. It also examines, assesses and advises on research.
- Other monitoring and research boards may supervise clinical trials. Ask which boards are associated with each clinical trial.
Your doctor can also monitor the clinical trial. Communicate the results of the trial to your doctor if it helps with your medical condition.
Myth: Clinical trials are costly and usually sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.
Fact: Sponsors and insurance, including Medicare, usually cover costs related to clinical trials. Medicaid coverage varies by state. Costs related to participants’ unrelated health issues are not covered.
Indirect costs may include time and travel commitments, childcare or lost time at work. The clinical trial may want laboratory tests or other procedures.
In addition to pharmaceutical companies, trial sponsors include:
- government agencies
- insurance companies
- medical device companies
- nonprofit foundations
- healthcare providers
Myth: Clinical trials are a last resort when you are very ill.
Fact: Clinical trials target different levels of illness and duration. Some trials are long and for life-threatening illnesses. Others are shorter, such as for seasonal allergies or vaccines that relate to a specific season.
Participants are selected by age group, gender or stage of illness. Often healthy volunteers are recruited for comparison results.
Myth: Participants never get to see results.
Fact: Some results are shared throughout the trial. Once a study is finished and analyzed, the results are usually published for all to see.
William E. Berger, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist who serves as Medical Director and a member of the Board of Directors with Allergy & Asthma Network. He is a Distinguished Fellow and Past President (2002-03) of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).