Dealing with disease can be incredibly difficult – especially if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness.

Current medical science doesn’t always hold the answers that sufferers seek. When you come across a promising-sounding solution, it’s only natural to jump at the chance.

In the case of clinical trials, however, untested medical methods may carry serious risks. It’s important to be aware of these risks before participating in a clinical trial.

What exactly are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are experiments conducted by medical companies and researchers. Before drugs and other treatments can be used on a wide scale, they must be tested. Administering a treatment to a limited number of participants gives scientists and businesses an idea of how well it works.

Clinical trials aren’t the first experiments that individual treatments undergo. Most medications begin with animal trials or other research to eliminate known risk factors, such as toxicity or adverse drug interactions. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they’re completely safe for humans.

Why might someone participate in a clinical trial?

Patients who join clinical trials get to receive treatments that aren’t widely available. They also enjoy access to some of the top medical researchers in the world. The chance for potential improvement – or even a cure – offers hope for those facing serious or terminal illnesses.

Clinical trials also offer financial benefits. They typically provide treatments for free or at a reduced cost.

Finally, many patients choose to participate because they want to help advance science that might someday improve the lives of others.

What are the hazards?

Medical treatments involving drugs can have serious side effects. With clinical trials, the sides effects and drug interactions aren’t always fully understood. As a result, participants may experience severe reactions or complications.

Some trial patients derive absolutely zero benefits. Or you might find that the treatment isn’t as effective as something else you could have taken. These could be major setbacks if you delayed other forms of care to take part in a trial.

Additionally, your health insurer may decline to cover the costs of the study. Costs associated with travel or staying in a care facility often fall on the patient’s lap. If the trial goes wrong, you could end up paying for corrective medical treatment in addition to the expenses you’ve already incurred.

Weighing the pros and cons

Clinical trials serve a critical role in the world of modern medical science. They may not, however, have a positive impact on your own experience with disease. You must make your own decision based on a delicate balancing of the risks and benefits. Always consider the pros and cons carefully, in consultation with your medical care team, before getting involved.