It might surprise you to know that while 94 percent of Americans recognize the importance of clinical trial research to advance medical science, a mere 25 percent of the population say they understand how clinical trials work, or how to participate in one.
The need to raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials has never been greater. Today’s standards of medical treatments are developing and improving thanks primarily to clinical trials and the people who volunteer to participate in them.
Patients who participate in clinical research studies are vital to improving the standard of care for themselves and for future patients, all of whom can benefit from the new medications and medical procedures that they generate.
Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), says that the wealth of discoveries related to the genetic and environmental causes of disease have led scientists to numerous new targets for drug development; however, the rate at which new drugs and other therapeutics are reaching patients has not increased proportionately.
One of the biggest problems in converting these discoveries into new treatments is the low participation rate in clinical studies, a problem that is clearly demonstrated in cancer research–-only three percent of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials.
The American medical community has made educating patients and non-patients alike a priority, and the growth of online registries and databases to help physicians, patients, family members and friends find clinical trials in their area for their specific medical needs is also a step in the right direction.
Patient advocacy groups and outreach workers are increasing clinical trial awareness and patient enrollment, in part by addressing concerns and misconceptions about clinical trials that may be preventing a larger participation rate.
Some of the more common concerns include fear of experimentation, logistical concerns related to costs, insurance coverage, missed work, travel demands, and time away from family. The perception that clinical trials are last-resort efforts, something participants only turn to when all other approved treatments have failed is another common misconception, as the fear of placebo treatment (which means that no treatment may be provided), and the belief that intervention or treatment in the clinical trial is more invasive than standard treatment.
Clinical trials are the heart and soul of drug development and medical innovation, where new treatment options are evaluated for safety and efficacy to make them commercially available. Clinical trials are important in understanding the root cause of disease, improve methods of detecting disease, and compare commercially available medications to determine which are more effective in certain patients.
In order to move research forward, we are striving to raise awareness about the power of clinical trials. The benefits to so many patients can’t be stressed enough, as it’s the clinical trials that determine when new and innovative medical solutions that can exceed the current standard of care are made available.