a few thoughts about clinical trials

3 Aug

Research on PCOS (and any other disease, for that matter) is an essential part of developing treatments. One way that researchers study a new drug or a PCOS-related phenomenon is through a clinical trial, which ClinicalTrials.gov (a site run by the NIH) defines as “biomedical or health-related research studies in human beings that follow a pre-defined protocol.” You know what a trial is, of course; “clinical” just means that the treatment is being tested on real patients (not examined theoretically).

There is no substitute for the clinical trial; it is necessary to test new treatments on human subjects before they can be brought to market to help other patients. The better the study, the more useful it is, and–ultimately–the safer the patients are who might take the drugs or use a treatment if/when they are approved.

There are always risks in a clinical trial (some greater than others), but if you are interested in participating, check it out and read a lot about the study before you agree. If you do participate, you will be advancing research and helping patients (including yourself). It’s worth considering, especially if there’s a study nearby. Only some trials are medication-related; there are also studies that track lifestyle changes or habits.

One of the limitations on the reliability of clinical trials is that minority subjects are still underrepresented. This causes a number of problems: it might not reveal problems that certain minority populations have when they use the treatment, and it might not show differences in the ways that different populations respond to the treatment.

The Hormone Foundation has compiled a handout for minority patients who might consider participating in a trial. There’s a more general list of questions at ClinicalTrial.gov, with information for any patient who might be interested.

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