3 reasons patients take part in clinical trials

Most large hospital networks have research arms and Baylor Health Care System is no exception. Offering the possibility of directing clinical research trials helps hospitals attract physicians who are leaders in their fields.

Conducting research trials adds to a hospital’s prestige, and research is sometimes a requirement to attain certain rankings. Hospitals that wish to be designated Level 1 Trauma Centers, for instance, must conduct research studies in trauma medicine. And, since research is the way the field of medicine advances, many hospitals conduct research as part of their contribution to the greater good.

But why do patients agree to participate? “I’m no guinea pig,” is some people response when they are asked to participate in a clinical trial. And that’s just fine. No one should ever feel pressured.

Many people, however, are not only willing but also are eager to take part in research trials. I’ve been working in the clinical research field for several years now, and it seems to me that there are three broad reasons for patients to take part in clinical trials.

1.  Receiving newer, better, or potentially life-saving treatment

The first research subject I met at Baylor was a woman who had hepatitis C. She had previously “failed” another drug. The research trial offered her a chance to beat this serious chronic infection and she was delighted to participate. Alzheimer’s patients, cancer patients and patients with other debilitating chronic diseases are often eager to participate in research studies that offer them hope.

2.  Financial gain

Regulations prohibit researchers from tempting potential subjects with unseemly large sums, but people can be reimbursed for their time and effort. When I was a grad student, I participated in a simple research project that paid me $25 a week. It was a small sum, but it made it worth it for me at the time.

Often the fiscal reward for participating in a research study is not direct, but indirect. A patient might get a surgical procedure that they need at no charge because a new surgical device will be tested. Or a diabetic patient might get free insulin and glucose test strips as part of his participation in the test of a new insulin.

3.  Altruism

This is my favorite reason that people agree to participate in research studies. Every day at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth, I talk to women about participating in a specific small research study. When I get to the part of the consent form that talks about compensation for participation, I have to tell them there is no compensation for this particular study.

By participating, I tell them, “You are just being a nice person.” And every day I see smiles on these women’s faces when I say those words. They like the idea of being a good person, of helping expand medical knowledge and of improving the lot of patients in the future.

Baylor Research Institute has more than 800 active clinical research trials ongoing at any given time. Perhaps one is right for you or a member of your family.

Check out a list of research trials being conducted at Baylor Health Care.

This post was contributed by Cathy Frisinger, MPH, MS, Research Enrollment Analyst on the staff at Baylor Research Institute in Fort Worth.

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3 reasons patients take part in clinical trials