The Benefits of Clinical Trials
WebMD News Archive
April 14, 2000 (Washington) -- A remarkable
statistic arrived the other day from a company that recruits people to
participate in clinical studies: 80% of clinical trials fail to enroll the
required number of patients on time.
defies logic. People who enroll in these studies often getbetter medical care than most other patients, can get an
advanced therapythat generally is not
available to other patients, and usually receivefollow-up monitoring to assure their
Why, then, is
it so tough to find people willing to enroll in a clinicaltrial?
There seems to
be a number of barriers:
- The medical
criteria usually are strict. A clinical study can reachvalid scientific conclusions only if all the patients
have similar medicalconditions and meet
very exacting requirements. Sometimes it's hard to findpatients who meet all the criteria.
- Many patients
believe that they may get a placebo, or dummy pill, if theyenroll in a clinical study. It is true that many studies
areplacebo-controlled -- that is, some
patients receive a placebo and othersreceive the drug being studied. It is also true that
neither the patientnor the physician may
know which patients are receiving the active drug. But not all studies
areplacebo-controlled. In studies for
medical conditions for which effective and safe treatments already exist, no
one receives a placebo; patients get either the new drug being tested, or the
accepted, approvedtreatment. Before
deciding whether to participate in a clinicaltrial, a patient should know whether the alternative
treatment is a placebo.
- Recent news
coverage of gene therapy trials, in which one teenager died duringa study, may be scaring off many prospective enrollees.
This isunfortunate, but the reality is
that recruitment was difficult before this death occurred.
trials can't even get respect in the theater. A play called"Wit," which recently appeared in Washington, is
a powerful drama about aterminal ovarian
cancer patient ("I'm at stage IV; there is no stageV," she says) who is enrolled in a study of an
experimental drug. Thecharacter's
physicians treat her more like a test subjectthan a human being. No one would want to be in a
clinical trial afterseeing this
know how clinical trials actually function are in disbelief thatthe American public views them negatively. Carolyn R.
Aldige, president andfounder of the Cancer
Research Foundation of America, tells WebMD: "Anyonewith a cancer that cannot be effectively treated should
aggressively seekout participation in a
clinical trial. The chances of receiving the latestand best treatment is so much
organization is sponsoring a national survey in hopes of gaining a
betterunderstanding of why people are
reluctant to enroll in cancer trials. In cancer trials, she notes,patients always receive either the best standard
treatment or an additionaltreatment that
may be even more effective.