Why Volunteer for a Clinical Trial?

Individuals may have dozens of different reasons for volunteering for clinical trials.  However, for most people, there are two primary reasons, discussed below.

  1. Individual with a physical condition (e.g., cancer, irritable bowl syndrome) or mental condition (e.g., depression, bipolar) can gain access to the newer and/or more cutting-edge treatment options than those available through a physician or hospital.Many individuals have conditions that are not responsive to conventional treatments.
    Individuals with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, acne, irritable bowl syndrome, epilepsy, sleep disorders, severe depression, fibromyalgia and hundreds of other conditions have limited treatment options that often provide insufficient progress or relief.  Clinical trials offer a way by which such individuals can receive newer and potentially better treatment options, under physician supervision and usually provided at no cost.

    Many individuals experience serious side effects to conventional treatments.
    Conventional treatments for cancer, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, back pain, depression and hundreds more often carry serious side effects.  Such side effects can range from chronic diarrhea to death and are a leading reason that millions of people with debilitating diseases chose to live with their condition without seeking medical treatment.  Of course, the treatments tested in clinical trials may also carry side effects; however, pharmaceutical manufacturers are continually trying to find treatments that are more effective with fewer and less severe side effects.  Clinical trials offer an opportunity for such individuals to receive treatments for their conditions that act through different mechanisms relative to conventional treatments and, therefore, may carry fewer and less severe side effects.

    Many individuals cannot afford conventional treatments.
    In doing research for this piece, I ran across a headline that struck me and I wasn’t sure if it was more ridiculous or sad; “Spark gene therapy drug priced less than expected at $850,000.”  Not a typo, 850 big G’s but, apparently, that’s a bargain.  Click here to see for yourself.  Of course, most treatments don’t carry that kind of price tag but it’s not unusual for them to cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Some are fortunate enough to have most or all treatment expenses covered but millions are left with out-of-pocket expenses that can sometimes be more debilitating than the condition they’re designed to treat.  The treatments provided in clinical trials are typically provided at no cost to volunteers.One additional factor to consider is the medical monitoring received through a clinical trial.  While some may see hospital visits and blood draws as an inconvenience, the level of monitoring (for improvement in biomarkers, any side effects, etc.) typically provided through a clinical trial would otherwise be extremely expensive (even with insurance), if available at all.  Anyone who has ever had to pay for medical lab work their insurance company deemed “not medically necessary” understands this.  Having a team of clinicians keeping a close eye on you can itself be of great benefit, especially for those with life-threatening medical conditions.

  1. Individuals wish to serve as a healthy volunteer to help advance medical science and earn some extra cash in the process.
    Thousands of clinical trials accept healthy volunteers and pay for participation.
    To be clear, not all clinical trials accept healthy volunteers and not all trials pay their volunteers for participation, but many do.  Some pay up to $10,000 or more but, remember, clinical trials pay what they think is fair compensation for what they require of their participants (e.g., how much time and effort participants need to put in) so you’re unlikely to find a study that will pay you $10,000 to visit once per month to eat pizza and watch movies.Several classmates and I did this in graduate school for extra cash and never had a bad experience, but we were selective in choosing the trials in which we participated.  Remember, clinical trials vary greatly in what is required of participants.  Some may require a number of repeat assessment visits and may or may not reimburse you for travel.  Some trials require no blood draws while others may require frequent blood draws.  Some trials do not involve medications at all, while other trials may involve an experimental treatment or medication.  For example, I was paid $1,000 to help test a new vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis (I’m still not entirely sure what it is but at least I don’t have to worry about getting it!).  Participation required five 30-min visits to a site near where I lived and I had a small amount of blood drawn at each visit.  As a poor graduate student, it was well worth it for me but every individual is different.  Just be sure you know exactly what is expected of participants before you enroll in a study.

    Clinical Trial Volunteers are also contributing to medical science.
    Just about every FDA-approved intervention, medication and medical device had to prove its effectiveness and safety through clinical trials.  That means that every clinical trial volunteer is helping to make new and better treatments available to those that need them, ultimately improving and even saving the lives of billions of people worldwide.  Thank you.


Visit the hopetrials homepage to see a list of trials that meet your criteria.

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