Clinical trials have the potential to benefit people’s health and can provide options in circumstances where treatment choices are limited or there are none. They can provide hope to sick people, and allow for the discovery of crucial information that can be implemented in the creation of new treatments.
They are conducted to study a broad range of diseases and the best way to treat them. By involving a large number of participants, clinical trials can test what medical treatments work. By combining existing treatments with new treatments, or simply trialling new treatments on their own, we are able to advance the field of medicine in crucial ways.
Let’s take a closer look at why clinical trials are important, how they are possible, and why you might get involved.
How are clinical trials possible?
There are different types of sponsors who help fund research, as detailed by the Australian Government website. These sponsors must be an Australian entity and can be an individual, a company or an institution. Individual researchers can include medical practitioners, and institutions can include hospitals. In addition, pharmaceutical companies can also be referred to as sponsors, and if they are not Australian, they need to find a local sponsor to allow the trial to go ahead.
Why you might consider participating in a clinical trial
Participating in a clinical trial has the potential to improve your health condition. When there are no treatment options available, or if the current treatments are not working, clinical trials may offer an alternative to managing the condition.
Clinical trials are also essential to the ongoing pursuit of improved health and human prosperity. Just consider this fact: if you have ever taken a prescription medicine, you have a clinical trial volunteer to thank. This is to say, all prescribed treatments we rely on have undergone some kind of a clinical trial process to establish their safety and efficacy so that they are available for use.
Clinical trials are necessary to create new treatments like vaccines, surgical or medical procedures and other important drugs.
Clinical Trials are always seeking participants. Being part of a clinical trial means you could be a part of finding a treatment that helps thousands of lives- maybe even your own. This is the only way to find new treatments for existing diseases.
The unfortunate reality is only a small portion of clinical trials successfully find a new treatment for an existing disease. There can be a number of reasons for this, such as the regular challenge of finding enough participants. Additionally, some clinical trials lack enough participants that actually see out the process, which often takes a number of years.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual trials and hybrid models are increasingly being adapted. Whilst clinical trials may now be conducted virtually, there are limitations to this process but it is opening the pathway for more people to be involved and access clinical trials. You can read more about the increased funding for telehealth.
The good news is when clinical trials are complete, something important has always been discovered. Ideally, a new and effective treatment has been found that can be administered universally to people with a given disease or illness. However, even finding out if a certain treatment won’t be effective, or will be effective under certain circumstances, is brand new information that is crucial to progress. None of this is possible without participants in clinical trials. Our Participant Stories show how wide-ranging and rewarding the process of participating in a clinical trial can be.
Take a look at the White Coats Thank You Sessions to see the way we show appreciation to clinical trial participants. You can also read about White Coats Initiatives to see all the great work we’re doing around raising awareness about the important role of clinical trials in healthcare.
Consumer and community involvement in research
There are other ways in which consumers can be involved in research, outside of participating in a clinical trial, which is referred to as Consumer and Community Involvement.
Consumer and Community Involvement in research is where consumers and the community actively work with researchers or research organisations to help “shape decisions about health research priorities, policy and practice”. This is so important to understand, as it speaks to the spirit behind health research, both in clinical trials and beyond. We are all “consumers” in that we all consume healthcare. There is great value in learning from the lived experience of patients and carers, to help shape the future direction of research. As such, the greater community can also put on a white coat, so to speak, and assist in shaping the future of healthcare and research.
For further, in-depth information, you can download our reflections paper, De-Mystifying Consumer and Community Involvement in Research (CCI). This paper clarifies the definition of consumer and community involvement in research and some of the different ways in which people can be involved in research.
Also, take a look around the White Coats Foundation website and all the wonderful initiatives we are involved in. You can also be part of shaping the future of clinical trials and health research because, after all, you don’t have to be a scientist to help medical research.
Please note: White Coats blogs are informational only and do not constitute advice. Please contact your relevant healthcare professional for advice on clinical trials for you.