It’s an odd thought, that giving yourself to science while still alive can be a good thing to do. Of course there is the altruistic argument: do something good that could benefit others before it benefits you. But it’s not the only reason why participating in clinical testing could be good for you.
What are Medical Trials?
Every medicine, be it a complex chemotherapy or the humble throat lozenge, must undergo a series of tests to prove that it performs better than the drugs already available. This is done through a process of medical trials.
There are two types: trials requiring healthy volunteers and trials that are condition specific and require participants who have that condition.
Before You Can Participate
Before you are eligible to participate in a medical trial you must undergo a health screening. This is to check that there are no underlying conditions that could be exacerbated by a trial drug. The initial screenings are thorough, incorporating blood tests, organ exams and a basic fitness test. This is more than you would expect to receive from your family doctor.
If you are suffering from an underlying condition, it will be picked up in the initial screening and you’ll be advised of who you should see for further investigation and treatment.
Once you are approved to join the volunteer panel, you will be given a second screening before each trial you’ve applied for. The reason behind this is every trial has parameters and those participating must have biological functions that fall within those parameters.
For example, not everyone’s body temperature is exactly the same; what is considered ‘normal’, is actually between 36.1 and 37.8 degrees Celsius. Let’s say a trial needs participants whose temperature is at the higher end of the scale at 37.6 degrees and mine is normally lower at 36.8 degrees, I would not fall within the parameters and I would not be eligible to participate in the trial.
The second health screen will also check for underlying conditions that could compromise both the volunteer and the trial results. Having regular health screenings at this depth of analysis might persuade you to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
Money and Other Benefits
If you have a condition and choose to take part in a medical trial, it’s unlikely you will receive any financial remuneration (in some cases travel expenses will be paid). The reason for this is you are getting access to medications that are not widely available. Perhaps the best medication for your condition isn’t available in your country, or is extremely expensive, but is available in a medical trial. Participation in that trial can get you the access without the need to spend the many thousands it can cost.
For those participating as healthy volunteers, an honorarium is paid. The amount varies from company to company but can be between £2000 and £4000 for longer trials.
All medical testing is regulated by law and informed consent is required before anyone can participate.
Sally Shaws writes about volunteering for clinical trials. You can for more information on taking part in these trials at sites like volunteers.gsk.