- Do you want to prevent a medical condition from getting worse?
- Do you need to manage your treatment more effectively?
- Are you looking for an alternative to your standard treatment?
- Is your condition not responding to available treatments?
- Do you want cutting-edge treatment from caring doctors in a comfortable setting?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, participating in a medical study might be the right choice for you.
Participating in a Medical Study
Researchers can’t discover new cures without your help. They carefully develop studies to answer specific questions about new therapies and procedures. Then they ask people like you to help answer those questions. Most studies limit participation. Researchers must follow strict guidelines to protect you and to collect accurate information about the new therapy. If you’re eligible to participate, you can help yourself — and maybe thousands of others.
The Benefits Can Be Invaluable
If you choose to participate in a medical study, you can:
- actively manage your health care
- try new treatments that are not available to the public
- get caring, expert medical care at excellent facilities during the trial
- experience an improvement in your condition
For some studies, you can even get some compensation for your time and travel expenses.
- What is a medical study? A medical study involves research using human volunteers (also called participants) that is intended to add to medical knowledge. There are two main types of medical studies: clinical trials and observational studies.
- Clinical Trials: In a clinical trial (also called an interventional study), participants receive specific interventions according to the research plan or protocol created by the investigators. These interventions may be medical products, such as drugs or devices; procedures; or changes to participants’ behavior, for example, diet. Clinical trials may also compare a new medical approach to a standard one that is already available or to a placebo that contains no active ingredients. When a new product or approach is being studied, it is not usually known whether it will be helpful, harmful, or no different than available alternatives (including no intervention). The investigators try to determine the safety and efficacy of the intervention by measuring certain outcomes in the participants.
- Observational Studies: In an observational study, investigators assess health outcomes in groups of participants according to a protocol or research plan. Participants may receive interventions, which can include medical products, such as drugs or devices, or procedures as part of their routine medical care, but participants are not assigned to specific interventions by the investigator (as in a clinical trial). For example, investigators may observe a group of older adults to learn more about the effects of different lifestyles on cardiac health.
- Who conducts medical studies? Every medical study is led by a principal investigator, who is often a medical doctor. Medical studies also have a research team that may include doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals.
Medical studies can be sponsored, or funded, by pharmaceutical companies, academic medical centers, voluntary groups, and other organizations, in addition to Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Physicians, health care providers, and other individuals can also sponsor medical research.
- How long do medical studies last? The length of a medical study varies, depending on what is being studied. Participants are told how long the study will last before enrolling.
- Who can participate in a medical study? Medical studies have standards outlining who can participate, called eligibility criteria, which are listed in the protocol. Some research studies seek participants who have the illnesses or conditions that will be studied. Other studies are looking for healthy participants. And some studies are limited to a predetermined group of people who are asked by researchers to enroll.