All over the world and in a range of populations, clinical trials are seen as essential in the understanding and treatment of diseases varying from cancer and heart disease to infectious, transmitted illnesses. Although it is simple to state that this kind of research is essential, taking an in-depth look at why it is so can encourage more people to participate.
As participation in clinical trials is a significant challenge for healthcare and medical researchers, educating the public on the benefits of medical research is seen as highly important. Here are some of the specific reasons why this kind of work is so critical to human health.
Firstly, clinical trials are essential for testing whether new drugs and treatments work in humans, after having been tested through other methods. In some cases, treatments tested on animals can be ineffective in humans, in which case time and money spent on researching this is discontinued in favour of more promising solutions.
The case may also arise where research shows that some treatments are effective in humans, meaning that further testing can be done to see if this is a viable option for others suffering from the same illness. Discovering this information will further the understanding of how the treatment works and how it can help humans recover from the specific disease.
After effectiveness has been determined, the safety of using the treatment is assessed, often over an extended period of time, to see if certain health risks are increased or decreased with use. Although participants in trials will obviously take on the risk of discovering the side effects of the medication themselves, they will also help future generations benefit from this knowledge.
However, it is worth noting that all medical treatments – even the ones that are used widely and commonly today – are not without risk. It is therefore important to weigh up the pros and cons of undergoing clinical trials on an individual basis. Some may decide that it is worth trying anything, whereas others may prefer to stick with conventional treatment methods.
These are two reasons why clinical research is so important – not only is it necessary to determine whether treatments and procedures are effective for humans, but it is also critical to analyse side effects and determine the risks of taking certain medication in the long- or short-term or undergoing certain procedures.
In addition to this, another reason why this kind of research is so important is that it helps medical experts determine which treatments are more effective than others when analysing the spectrum of options available.
Clinical trials can also give insight into which groups of people respond best to treatment and which do not, leading to information that can guide healthcare professionals in prescribing appropriate solutions to their patients. To give an example, children may benefit from a treatment much more than adults, who would be advised to undertake an alternative instead.
Although these are the specific aims and objectives of clinical trials, it is important to remember that this information is overall critical to the universal goal of protecting and maintaining optimal human health in the face of the numerous diseases and illnesses that are prevalent in the population.
It is also worth noting that without this kind of research having taken place, current treatment options that save many lives every year – for example chemotherapy and anti-retroviral drugs – would simply not be available for use by the general population.
Although many of the people that currently undertake medical trials are those in developing countries that do not otherwise have many healthcare options, it should be remembered that those in developed countries can choose to participate in these kinds of trials in order to further medicine and the understanding of their disease to the benefit of all of society.