Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new ways to prevent, detect and treat illness. Trials related to asthma and allergies may focus on new medications, devices or medical procedures.

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. Evaluate benefits and risks before participating.

Myth: Participants are not protected.

Fact: Built-in safeguards, strict guidelines, screening and testing help protect participants legally and ethically:

  • Informed consent documents detail the purpose, duration, risks and benefits of visits and procedures. 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. However, you can leave the trial at any point, even after starting treatment.
  • Ask if the trial is IRB-reviewed. The Institutional Review Board (IRB) – composed of physicians, scientists and community members – ensures medical safety and protection; it examines, assesses and advises on a continuing basis.
  • Other monitoring and research boards may supervise for participants’ protection; ask which boards are associated with each trial.
  • Communicate results with your doctor, who can monitor the trial.

Myth: Clinical trials are costly and usually sponsored by pharmaceutical companies.

Fact: Sponsors and insurance, including Medicare, usually cover the patient’s costs related to clinical trials. Medicaid coverage varies by state. Costs related to participants’ unrelated health issues are not covered.

Indirect costs for the participant may include time and travel commitments, childcare or lost time at work due to trial requirements such as laboratory tests or other procedures.

Trial sponsors include government agencies, insurance companies, medical device companies, foundations, physicians/investigators and healthcare providers, as well as pharmaceutical companies.

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 may be 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 may be shared throughout the trial. Once a study is finished and results are analyzed, they are typically published for all to see.

Reviewed by William Berger, MD