Skip to content
    Font Size

    The Benefits of Clinical Trials

    WebMD Health News

    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.

    The statistic defies logic. People who enroll in these studies often get better medical care than most other patients, can get an advanced therapy that generally is not available to other patients, and usually receive follow-up monitoring to assure their safety.

    Why, then, is it so tough to find people willing to enroll in a clinical trial?

    There seems to be a number of barriers:

    • The medical criteria usually are strict. A clinical study can reach valid scientific conclusions only if all the patients have similar medical conditions and meet very exacting requirements. Sometimes it's hard to find patients who meet all the criteria.
    • Many patients believe that they may get a placebo, or dummy pill, if they enroll in a clinical study. It is true that many studies are placebo-controlled -- that is, some patients receive a placebo and others receive the drug being studied. It is also true that neither the patient nor the physician may know which patients are receiving the active drug. But not all studies are placebo-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, approved treatment. Before deciding whether to participate in a clinical trial, a patient should know whether the alternative treatment is a placebo.
    • Recent news coverage of gene therapy trials, in which one teenager died during a study, may be scaring off many prospective enrollees. This is unfortunate, but the reality is that recruitment was difficult before this death occurred.
    • Clinical trials can't even get respect in the theater. A play called "Wit," which recently appeared in Washington, is a powerful drama about a terminal ovarian cancer patient ("I'm at stage IV; there is no stage V," she says) who is enrolled in a study of an experimental drug. The character's physicians treat her more like a test subject than a human being. No one would want to be in a clinical trial after seeing this play.

    WebMD Video: Now Playing

    Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

    Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

    Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing