The Rewards of Participating in a Clinical Trial

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I have always been fascinated by scientific research and public participation in the process. My pregnancy has offered me many opportunities to be a research participant myself.

I have never had the opportunity to participate in this process until now. Last fall, I took part in a clinical trial dealing with the regeneration of insulin-producing cells during pregnancy. I am also a participant in the TRIGR trial, which is studying the role of breastfeeding and the introduction of cow’s milk products to infants with a type 1 family connection.

I have chosen to participate in these trials because I want to be a part of the solution to diabetes. Even though I am not equipped to work in the laboratory, examining cells and finding answers, I can still be a part of the process.

You Can Take Part, Too

Think about our heroes, Dr. Banting and Dr. Best. What would they have done without their colleague and friend, Leonard Thompson, the first person to test insulin? Thompson’s life was extended dramatically because he participated in clinical research. Although there were risks and bumps in the road, his contribution will never be forgotten.

A clinical trial is defined by the National Library of Medicine as “a research study in human volunteers to answer specific health questions.” There are several types of trials, from interventional to observational, and the requirements for participants vary widely. Some might require anything from pregnancy (sorry, guys) to age factors, to race, to a specific environment. The criteria are set forth as necessary to help answer specific questions and are never intended to be discriminatory or offensive.

Participation is a very personal decision. There are always benefits and risks. The National Library of Medicine, with the National Institutes of Health, has established a Web site to help inform the public about clinical research and opportunities for public participation. On the site, www.clinicaltrials.gov, they note the following:

Benefits

  • Play an active role in your own health care
  • Gain access to new treatments before they are widely available
  • Obtain expert medical care at leading healthcare facilities
  • Help others by contributing to research

Risks

  • There may be unpleasant, serious or even life-threatening side effects
  • The experimental treatment may not be effective
  • The protocol may require more time and attention than would a non-protocol treatment

For More Information

The Web site www.clinicaltrials.gov is a fascinating resource. Even if you are not interested in participating, I urge you to browse the site. The information and education it offers are empowering. At a glance, I found over 500 ongoing trials relating to diabetes. The site currently lists approximately 23,500 clinical studies of all kinds in their database.

If you don’t have diabetes but are interested in playing a part in diabetes research, there are opportunities for you, as well. You can even consider offering your time and body to research in memory of someone you care about. It would certainly make for a unique valentine gift.

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