I did not participate in a clinical trial. I was offered one and was considering it (and probably going to participate) when I found out that I actually didn't qualify. This article in Parade Magazine (the medical resource not to use) this weekend on clinical trials I find to be very negative. Let's start with the title: "Are Clinical Trials Safe?" Well, gee I didn't think they were not safe until you started questioning their safety. It also talks about risk, blah, blah, blah. Why don't they discuss the importance of them more and how more people should participate in them? I found this very disturbing.
Clinical trials are very important and it is unfortunate that more patients are not offered them. They are part of the process where drug companies test their new drugs to make sure they work as expected, test doses, etc. There are four stages in clinical trials: Phase O is initial human test to see if the drug is safe, Phase I is establishing safety and tolerability of the drug among other things, Phase II is designed to assess how well the drug works, Phase III is for a definitive assessment of the drug, and Phase IV is on going testing of how well the drug works and can continue after the drugs launch. There are lots of Phase III trials around, because they involve larger groups, and people should be encouraged to participate. They were explained to me that you are always testing against the current protocol for something that might be better. So you might be getting better treatment than what is available. (Check wikipedia for a non scientific overview and clinicaltrials.gov for lots more information on current trials.)
If you participate in a clinical trial you are helping others. Think of it as a chance to give back. It also may save your life. Perhaps Parade Magazine should stick with its celebrity coverage and skip the medical information.