Clinical Trials: Using Illness to Help Others

To get a new medication approved by the FDA and to market in the United States takes a lot of bureaucratic red tape. Generally speaking, this is to protect the public from drug companies producing and releasing a drug before it is ready or as a treatment for something it does not cure.

This is a part of the general public’s fear: snake oil salesman a century ago roamed the wild west with such “cures,” often ones that were more likely to kill the patient than to alleviate their symptoms or offer any kind of cure. However, the approval process often seems drawn out and tedious while those who are suffering wait for a viable treatment for their disease.

Once an individual has been diagnosed with a rare disease, they need to seek out a specialist, something that is easy to do using online services like XpertDox. They may be able to get a referral to a clinical trial if one is available for the condition they suffer from.

In a clinical trial, typically, the patients are trying a new medication or treatment, one that is seeking approval by the FDA. They receive the medication and treatment in exchange for having regular doctor’s visits, reporting side effects, and helping determine how effective the drug really is.

Here are a few reasons clinical trials are so vital to helping other patients with similar conditions.

Free Treatment

A clinical trial, because of its experimental nature, is typically free. The patient receives the medication and treatment for free. This means it is not even billed to an insurance company, and they are not charged even a single copay.

A part of this is due to the risks involved. New drugs have unknown side effects, and studies are used to determine just how effective they are across a wide population. This may mean the drug or treatment does not work for every patient.

Often treatment for rare or chronic conditions is expensive, and insurance only covers so much. Free treatment can mean the difference between financial stability and medical bankruptcy.

Payment

Some clinical trials will pay additional money besides simply covering treatment. At the least the entity conducting the trial will pay for any travel expenses the patient incurs, hotel stays if necessary, and even for the family to travel with them if going to another city is required to receive treatment.

While payment is not the typical motive for participating in a clinical trial, it often incentivises those who would not otherwise participate.

Patient Health

Speaking of a patient’s overall health, clinical trials can be a great resource. Perhaps the original diagnosis is incorrect, or other mitigating conditions or medication interactions are aggravating the symptoms.

A clinical trial is usually conducted by a group of specialists who are constantly monitoring patient health. This means regular blood testing and screenings, which provide much more information than just that covered by the trial.

Also, the patient has the potential to benefit from medications they might not otherwise have access to and knowledge beyond the scope of the average general practitioner. Even if the trial medication is not a fit, a patient might get other recommendations. They may even be asked to participate in follow-up studies instead.

Helping Others

Clinical trials are really designed for one reason. Even though medications may have gone through laboratory testing and researchers may be fairly confident in what they have, the clinical trial proves if it works on a wide population and moves it one step closer to approval.

The other thing a clinical trial determines is what patients a course of treatment does not work for. Since not everyone is the same or has the same symptoms, some medications are more effective for some people than others.

The only way for researchers to determine this is to recruit participants for these studies, so patient participation is not only for their benefit but for the benefit of others and their health.

Expanding Trust in the Medical Field

Unfortunately, the prescription drug industry often faces issues with their public image. Those companies who have raised prices simply for-profit are the ones spotlighted in the news, not those trying to truly do good for the community and patients.

Doctors are often lumped into these categories, and much of the time people make conditions worse by not seeking treatment in a timely manner. They often feel it will be too expensive, or their doctor or care provider does not have their best interest at heart.

By participating in a clinical trial, patients are showing trust in traditional medicine, and also spreading the message that others can trust in the system as well. This benefits the industry overall and falls in line with helping others who might also be struggling with certain medical conditions.

Conclusion

The medical system in the United States is far from perfect, and recent political events highlight some of those failures and issues. Costs continue to rise, insurance companies are often reluctant to pay, and the individual mandate to carry insurance is being challenged. Medicare and other systems seem strained to the breaking point.

However, despite these obstacles, the United States has one of the best medical care systems in the world. This is in large part due to excellent research facilities, and the willingness of ordinary patients with extraordinary conditions to participate in clinical trials and other studies that help advance our understanding and treatment of disease.

Patients should discuss their conditions with a family doctor, find a specialist, and explore whether a clinical trial might provide the solution they are looking for.

Awais Ahmed is a student, blogger and digital marketer who helps small entrepreneurs to improve their online presence. He has a range of interests including technology, apps and small business.