Clinical Trials

Solving the Puzzle of Clinical Trials

Don’t let considering a clinical trial as part of your treatment plan be as challenging as solving the New York Times Crossword. You don’t have to be a puzzle master to understand what clinical trials are — and what they aren’t.

In this article, we bust some of the most common myths surrounding clinical trials to provide the information you need to feel comfortable discussing this potential treatment option with your doctor.

MYTH: Clinical trials are a last resort.

FACT: Many patients today choose clinical trials as their first treatment option. In some situations, a trial may offer the best survival rate among treatments.

MYTH: The treatments used in clinical trials are not safe.

FACT: All drugs must pass a series of tests and undergo a rigorous evaluation process by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) to ensure they are safe and effective before they’re made available to the public. A team of CDER doctors, chemists, pharmacologists and other scientists analyze the medications at various stages during the approval process.

MYTH: It’s up to my doctor whether I can participate in a clinical trial.

FACT: You may ask for input from your doctor and loved ones or get a second opinion from a doctor with experience treating your diagnosis. But once you meet the trial criteria, it is ultimately your decision to participate.

MYTH: If a clinical trial was my best option, my doctor would have told me about it.

FACT: Many trials take place at the same time in a variety of locations, making it difficult for your doctor to know about all of them. It takes research, and that’s where you come in. While your health care team is exploring potential trials, you can look for them, too.

MYTH: Clinical trials are only held in big cities at large cancer centers.

FACT: Clinical trials happen in many places, from large cancer centers to small community hospitals. Even doctor’s offices may be clinical trial sites.

MYTH: A clinical trial given at a small hospital is not as safe as one at a large, well-known cancer center.

FACT: Every trial follows the same rules in the same way whether it is held at a large or small hospital. In fact, every clinical trial is designed with several levels of safeguards and a set of rules called a protocol. All participating clinics, hospitals, universities, cancer centers and medical offices, regardless of their location, are subject to the same protocol.

MYTH: Health insurance policies never cover experimental therapies.

FACT: Some parts of a clinical trial, such as routine patient care costs, are usually covered. To be sure you understand the parts of the clinical trial that your health insurance will cover, review your policy and contact your insurance company. Also, ask the clinical trial coordinator whether the costs not covered by your health insurance plan will be covered by the trial sponsor or whether they will be your responsibility.

MYTH: Once I say “yes” to a clinical trial, I’m locked in.

FACT: Participation is always voluntary, even after the trial has started. You can withdraw anytime and for any reason, and opt for standard-of-care treatment.


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