If you’re living with schizophrenia, you may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial as a treatment option. Researchers use this special type of research as they study this condition and look for ways to manage it better.
What Is a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial is a research study that tries to find a new way to prevent, detect, or treat a condition. The main goal is to figure out if a new test or type of treatment works well and is safe for people to use. That could be anything from a new kind of drug, a new combination of existing drugs, or new techniques or devices for surgery.
For people with schizophrenia, the majority of clinical trials are to test new antipsychotic medications. They see if these drugs help lessen any symptoms, such as having fixed beliefs that are false or hearing or seeing things that are not really there.
How Can I Find a Clinical Trial?
The first step in finding a clinical trial you might qualify for is to ask your doctor for suggestions. But you can also find lists of clinical trials online that are specifically for people with schizophrenia. You can find them on different websites, including those for hospitals, health care groups, government, or local chapters of nonprofit organizations.
Here are a few places you can start looking:
- The National Institute of Mental Health’s Clinical Trials web page: How to take part in clinical trials
- Clinicaltrials.gov: Current Studies on Schizophrenia: A list of clinical trials by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) across the country
- Join a Study: Schizophrenia: A list of studies being done on the NIH Campus in Bethesda, MD
What Should I Look For in a Trial?
If you’re looking for a clinical trial or thinking of signing up for one, there are some questions to keep in mind when choosing the right option for you. Start by asking your doctor about the benefits and risks of different studies.
When you find a trial that may be a good fit for you, contact the research team in charge of it. Ask for a copy of the informed consent guide for the trial you’re interested in. This is a document with information about the study and the potential risks and benefits. If you don’t find the answers to your questions there, a member of the team should be able to help you.
Here are a few questions you can ask:
- Am I eligible?
- How long does it last?
- What are the treatments I may have as part of the trial?
- What are the possible benefits of this treatment? What are the risks and side effects?
- Will I need to go into the hospital?
- Who will be in charge of my treatment?
- Will you provide follow-up care?
- Will you reimburse me for expenses?
Don’t take it personally if you don’t get accepted for a clinical trial. Research teams look for people who fit certain criteria to make sure everyone who takes part in the study will stay safe. Keep looking for one that works for you.
What Does It Involve?
If you’re planning to sign up for a clinical trial for schizophrenia or if you’ve already registered for one, it might help to know what to expect. The team organizing the clinical trial will send you specific information on how it works and how to prepare for it. This will include a schedule or outline of the stages of treatment and any advice or guidelines you need to follow.
Some clinical trials for schizophrenia last about 6 weeks, or a month and a half, while others might take up to 6 months or longer. Unfortunately, many people drop out before the study is over, especially if they don’t see their symptoms improve right away. If you want to see the best results, it’s important that you stick with the program for the entire time.
Every week, they will have you come in for an interview, where they will measure your progress by tracking any changes in your symptoms since the previous week. This test is called the positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS). It rates your current level of 30 symptoms, such as delusional thinking, fantastical beliefs, and staying away from social interaction.