Participating in clinical trials is an important thing to consider but like any decision, one must weigh the pros and cons of becoming involved. Although there are a number of different types of clinical trials, there are some general advantages and disadvantages to consider.
(1) Clinical trial participation is necessary in order for the research community to develop better treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease or any other illnesses for that matter. Without enough participants, clinical trials languish and are delayed, a fact that wastes precious time and resources.
(2) Through a clinical trial you may have access to potentially better treatments that you would otherwise not have had the opportunity to use. In fact you may have first access to a more effective treatment that what is normally used to treat Parkinson’s.
(3) If you have exhausted all standard treatments and are unable to find anything to help control your symptoms and maintain your quality of life, then a clinical trial may be a much needed option.
(4) The experimental treatment may have fewer side effects than the standard medication you use.
(5) There is a certain feeling of empowerment that is gained from being proactive in the choices you make in the context of your illness.
(6) Since many clinical trials involve specific visits and investigations often by leading health care professionals in the Parkinson’s field, you may benefit from this increased monitoring and medical supervision.
(7) There is a sense of satisfaction knowing that you have helped advance the knowledge in the field of Parkinson’s research through your participation.
(1) There may be increased risks or side effects with the experimental treatment compared to the standard treatment you normally receive. Of course the safety of participants is foremost and every effort is made to minimize risks, unforeseen issues may arise during the trial period.
(2) You may have to stop or change your normal treatment protocol and the experimental medication may not be as effective resulting in you experiencing greater symptoms.
(3) Depending on the trial, there may be a significant time commitment. Travel may be required depending on the location of the study and visits may interfere with family or occupational responsibilities. It may in fact be difficult to arrange for time off or arrangements may be difficult to make.
(4) If you are part of a randomized control trial, then you will not be able to choose whether you receive placebo vs. the drug being studied. This may be difficult particularly if you had to change your current regimen and were placed in a control group.
(5) Even if the new treatment you receive in a clinical study works well, you may not have continued access to the treatment once the trial is completed.
(6) Expenditures and overall cost of participation in a clinical study may not be adequately covered particularly if you take into consideration loss of salary as well as additional costs such as childcare.
These are some of the issues that must be considered when contemplating taking part in Parkinson’s research. When the benefits become more significant and you are comfortable with the risk profile, then it makes sense to participate. And if you’re lucky, the treatment you are testing may benefit you directly. Regardless of the outcome, every clinical study adds to our knowledge of Parkinson’s which benefits not only you but the global Parkinson’s community.