If you have ever taken a pill or been treated for an illness, you have seen the benefit of clinical trials. Each year, thousands of African Americans take part in clinical trials to help find ways to prevent, treat, and cure illnesses. Clinical trials are an essential part of helping African Americans and all people enjoy better health.
What are Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials, also known as “clinical research studies”, or “clinical studies”, are studies in human volunteers that try to answer specific health questions. Some clinical trials measure the safety and effectiveness of potential new treatments. Other clinical trials observe health issues and behaviors in large groups of people.
Why We Need Your Help
Many illnesses such as sickle cell anemia, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, and certain kinds of cancer, such as prostate cancer, affect African Americans more than other people. Yet, little is known about how they respond to treatment, so African American volunteers are needed to help scientists learn how different treatments affect them. When taking part in clinical trials, African Americans help improve the health of all people and provide greater understanding of the differences between illness rates and the impact of potential treatments for different parts of the population.
Clinical Trials Then and Now
For many years, most clinical trials were done on white men only. This meant that groups such as African Americans, other minorities, and women were not included. But today, all people have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials, and those clinical trials are closely monitored for their safe and ethical treatment of volunteers.
How You Are Protected If You Participate
Some African Americans still remember past abuses like the Tuskegee Experiment, in which syphilis treatment was withheld from a group of African American men for many years. People wonder if something like that could happen today. The answer is no. Federal guidelines and codes of ethics are in place to protect clinical research volunteers from harm. In addition, an Institutional Review Board, a panel of professionals, and community members, are responsible for approving the study plan, checking participant safety, and protecting volunteer rights in every clinical trial.
What You Need to Know
Before you enroll in a clinical trial, it is a good idea to learn as much as you can about it. You may be interested to know that there are different kinds of clinical trials. Some need healthy volunteers while other clinical trials seek volunteers with a particular disease or condition. A clinical trial is conducted according to a plan called a protocol, which describes:
- What types of volunteers may enter the study
- The schedules of tests and procedures, study medications, and dosages
- Length of the study
- Number of study visits
Based on the requirements of the protocol, you may or may not qualify for a specific clinical trial.
If you qualify for the clinical trial, you will be told the potential risks and benefits of the study and asked to agree in writing to follow the protocol. This is called giving informed consent.
Things to Consider Before Volunteering
Before taking part in a clinical trial, consider the possible benefits and risks.
The investigational treatment studied in a clinical trial may or may not benefit you personally, but the benefits of participating are:
- Receiving expert study-related care for your condition
- Having early access to potential new treatments
- Knowing your participation may help others
Clinical trials study investigational treatments, therefore, some information about the study treatments are unknown. Some risks include:
- Not being able to choose your study treatment
- Receiving a study treatment that may not be effective
- Experiencing unpleasant or serious side effects
Remember, your participation in clinical trials is strictly voluntary and you can drop out at any time for any reason. Your decision to withdraw will not impact care or other benefits to which you are entitled.