Think about the life-saving medical advances that humans have made in the past century. What do most of them have in common? They have performed a series of tests to ensure that their treatments are both safe and effective for the general public. There are usually called clinical trials.
Admittedly, they do not have the best reputation. There are a few reasons behind this, but the biggest one that I can think of is the poor ethics that permeated most of them in the early twentieth century through the late twentieth century. It is hardly surprising that a lot of us hold a certain amount of distrust towards them.
However, this has not made them any less necessary for the creation of life saving drugs and medicines. Much has changed for the better since their advent, as you can learn about on this page: https://irb.northwestern.edu/resources-guidance/policies-guidance/clinical-trial-requirements.html. If you are still on the fence, though, I have more to explain.
Why they Matter so Much
One of the first things that tends to come up in discussions surrounding them is why they are so important. Did you know that researchers are actually required by federal law to perform experiments like these ones before they can release a drug out onto the market? There are a few reasons for that.
The first is pretty simple: we have to ensure that any new drugs that are going to enter the market are both effective and safe for human use. While there are tests done on animals for most of them, this is not sufficient testing to put them on pharmacy shelves. Further research needs to be done.
They are also intended to allow us to compare how the new treatment works versus the current status quo in medicine. This can help practitioners to adjust the current dosages and methods when applicable as well, which can improve quality of life for many patients down the line. Still, some wonder why participate in clinical trials, and whether it is worth it despite some of the risks involved.
Speaking generally, the potential benefits tend to outweigh any potential negatives that you might experience. That being said, there are always some risks associated with participation. If you want to know why participants decide to sign up anyway, I will discuss that in the next section.
The Motivations of Participants
Before I get too far into this point, I want to give a little disclaimer first. I can not speak for all study participants, and this is a general explanation rather than a deep dive into individual reasons. Those are kept private for good reason, so that is not where I am going with this.
A common reason is that these trials are required. Those of us who want to help with the noble goal of developing more medicines for deadly diseases or chronic illnesses might sign up, for example. It is simply a fact that a lot of drugs would not reach the market without willing volunteers.
The desire to help others is something else quite compelling for a lot of people. While we can look at websites like this one to get the scientific perspective on them, most of us opt in for more emotional reasons. A lot of why I have signed up is because I want life saving drugs to be stocked on shelves across the country rather than kept in a lab, caught up in trials due to lack of volunteers.
Getting into a slightly more personal aspect of this, those who have a loved one suffering from a specific illness, or who have lost a person dear to them due to one, often have a strong desire to make a difference. One of the manners in which this can manifest is in participating in clinical trials for proposed treatments for those illnesses. While it is a risk for them, it is something they are willing to take to help their loved ones or honor their memories.
The final thing I would like to touch upon here is that when it comes to research like this, having a variety of people joining the study is quite important. Scientists do not want to do tests on a homogenous group, as the results can be skewed to some extent. Enlisting volunteers from several different backgrounds is a vital part of this. So, sometimes people enlist to help with this goal.
While the negative reputation used to be somewhat warranted, I hope that we can start to untangle the stigma surrounding this research. Thanks to new legislation, they are safer to join than ever. Finding them is not overly difficult either, since you can search them up online and be met with pages upon pages of promising results and providers.