Clinical Trials May Not be the Right Fit for You

By: Selin Odman

In this time of innovation and medical advancement, new options for curing diseases are coming up in an astonishing rate – maybe even too quickly. The massive volume of ideas makes it difficult for officials to make proper, timely decisions about regulating treatments and research. This becomes a problem in the case of clinical trials when someone’s life is in danger.

Photo credit: Miami U. Libraries - Digital Collections / Foter

Photo credit: Miami U. Libraries – Digital Collections / Foter

If we’ve ever turned on a news channel, at one point or another, the topic of breakthroughs in clinical trials will be discussed this term seems to be tossed around and used broadly. What is a clinical trial? Emory Winship Cancer Institute explains clinical trials as research studies that are testing new treatments to find better cures for diseases like cancer. It sounds wonderful, and through a research perspective, it is. Keep in mind that clinical trials regarding diseases that affect humans must be tested on volunteer patients. Someone you know may have participated in a clinical trial. While it’s very optimistic and motivational to view clinical trials as the fountain of youth, there are certain drawbacks that need to be considered.

To begin with, any new treatments will have unknown side effects. Since clinical trials may or may not have as many regulations as prior treatments, and will not have as much data as traditional treatments will, there is always a risk that the treatments will have an adverse affect. The question is whether the side effects are manageable and will not leave you unable to fight off the disease otherwise.

Even if the side effects are minimal or handled well by your body, the treatment may not work.  Obviously, doctors do not know if the proposed cure will better than or even half as good as the old treatments. The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund specifically states that although treatments may work for other people, there’s no guarantee it will work for you. This will mean that you have lost precious time playing around with something that didn’t work as opposed to receiving regular treatment that is proven to work.

In addition to the risks you take with your health, clinical trials require many more visits to clinics and hospitals. They may ask you to come in every day, every other week, or only a few times a year. You don’t know, but all the extra time in a hopeful-treatment could be spent elsewhere. Also, more trips to your doctor go hand-in-hand with higher medical bills. There is no guarantee that your health insurance will cover all the costs of new drugs or new tests. Usually, established methods and medicine cost much less than pioneer treatments because they have been developed and made accessible to most healthcare providers.

It’s undeniable that clinical research helps doctors make tremendous advances in modern medicine. However, if you find that traditional treatment is working for you, I would recommend continuing with the treatment as opposed to trying to find a new one. Don’t risk your own well-being for the progression of science. Participation in clinical trials should be used as a last resort, because if it happens to be the right one, it can save your life.