(NAPS)—Clinical trials are at the heart of advances in health and medicine. They seek to discover better ways to prevent, detect and treat disease to improve the health of current and future generations. By volunteering in a clinical trial, you can help advance human health—for yourself and others.
Clinical trials rely on volunteers with certain diseases and medical conditions, but some studies also need healthy people to participate. Why? Because volunteers in clinical trials must represent a wide range of people—by race, ethnicity, age, gender, physical sizes and abilities. By participating in a clinical trial, you might get an early opportunity to try a new and potentially beneficial treatment, and you might have access to expert medical care at leading institutions. You'd also have the opportunity to help advance innovations in health and medicine.
Many groundbreaking scientific advances have been achieved because of volunteers. For example, a recent study funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that pregnant women with even modestly elevated blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, had increased risk of complications for the baby before and shortly after birth. A follow-up study is showing that such women are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes years later, and their children are more likely to have obesity.
Another NIDDK-funded study found major improvements in weight, heart health, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and abnormal kidney function 3 years after weight-loss (bariatric) surgery in teens who had severe obesity. Researchers also found that those who have the surgery earlier may have greater benefits compared with waiting until later in life. They are continuing to study the longer-term benefits and risks from the surgery.
As a volunteer, you can make a difference. Clinical research helps us gain insights and answers about the safety and effectiveness of treatments and procedures.
Volunteer safety is also important. Guidelines and a review board are in place to make sure studies are safe. You won't be given a sugar pill ("placebo") if you would be put at risk by not receiving an effective treatment. You will be told if placebos are used in the study before entering a trial.
Talk with your health care professional to learn more about clinical trials and to find out if a clinical trial is right for you. Ask whether you are eligible to take part in a trial, how your safety will be protected and how long any specific trial will last. Learn about the different types of clinical trials, the different trial phases and the potential benefits and risks.
For more information about clinical trials, visit the NIDDK website. It includes a video where NIDDK Director Dr. Griffin Rodgers explains the role of clinical trial volunteers.