The benefits, disadvantages and risks of a clinical trial are listed in the Patient Informed Consent form which must be read and signed by each participant. Also, a member of the research team must explain all of these aspects of the trial.
During the time of participation in a clinical trial, patients may benefit from a research medication or treatment long before it is available to the general public. Throughout the trial, patients receive careful medical attention. There might be extra examinations and tests which will not be billed to patients or their insurance companies. Also, some patients consider it a benefit that they are contributing to medical science.
The main disadvantage to participating in a clinical trial is the time commitment. During the trial, additional office visits or laboratory tests are sometimes needed. Although the patient is not required to pay for these extra services, they often require time away from home or job. However, some trials do provide payment for travel-related expenses.
In some clinical trials, patients must stop taking their regular treatment/ medication before the trial begins. This is called a “wash-out” period. There may be a short time of increased discomfort until the new treatment begins to work. However, sometimes the study treatment does not work for a particular patient.
As with other treatments, those used in clinical trials may cause side effects that vary from person to person. Because the research treatments being tested in a clinical trial may be relatively new, it is possible that unknown side effects could occur. The risks and possible side effects specific to the clinical trial must be listed in the consent form and discussed by the research team with each participant.