How To Become a Guinea Pig

Review: ClinicalTrials.gov. Search. Find. Test. Rate. Painopolis. We keep watch for tools that could help you.

CUTTING EDGE: ClinicalTrials.gov lets you sift through 250,000 clinical trials to find experimental treatments worth considering.

When none of the standard treatments relieve your chronic pain, should you try an experimental approach by volunteering for a clinical trial? And if so, how?

It’s an all-too-common scenario: You’ve seen a slew of doctors who’ve prescribed countless treatments to erase your pain. Nevertheless, it persists. So what now?

“There are scientists right this minute trying to get to the bottom of whatever your medical disorder is. And they’re coming up with new experimental treatments. If you sign up for a clinical trial, you’re able to get access to experimental treatments way before you otherwise would.”

If the available treatments haven’t worked, maybe some unavailable ones might. And by unavailable, I mean treatments so new that they’re still working their way through the gauntlet of scientific testing that determines whether they’re safe and effective. Research scientists refer to those tests as clinical trials. The entire multi-stage evaluation process can take a decade or more to complete. In the meantime, the only way you can try one of those experimental treatments is by volunteering to be a test subject in a clinical trial. Yeah, a human guinea pig.

But there’s a catch: Experimental treatments pose potential health risks (including, in rare cases, death) as well as potential benefits. And because experimental treatments are so new, nobody really knows what those possible risks and benefits might be. What’s more, most experimental treatments never make it out of the lab because they simply don’t work; or in some instances, they do more harm than good.

But on the flip side, some newly invented treatments prove to be major breakthroughs. So by participating in a clinical trial, you can get access to an experimental treatment long before you otherwise would. If the word experimental gives you the creeps, you’re right to be cautious. Nonetheless, keep in mind that every medication you currently take was once experimental. And likewise, many experimental treatments now undergoing scientific scrutiny will one day earn a place in your physician’s quiver of treatment options.

At this very moment, hundreds of thousands of clinical trials are taking place around the globe. Hence, you can bet that scientists somewhere in the world are recruiting volunteers right now in hopes of coming up with new and improved treatments for your particular type of pain. But how do you locate a clinical trial near you that’s focusing on your specific health problem? How do you find the eligibility requirements for acceptance into a clinical trial? What questions should you ask when deciding whether to be a test subject? And how do you actually sign up for a clinical trial?

In this episode, we tell you about an online tool named ClinicalTrials.gov that promises to give you those answers. Moreover, we let you know how well ClinicalTrials.gov works based on three criteria:

•  Is it effective?

•  Is it easy to use?

•  Is it inexpensive?

We also dig into the potential benefits and drawbacks of volunteering for a clinical trial. In addition, we’ll talk you through the different types of clinical trials and tell you which ones are more likely to involve experimental treatments that may actually pan out. We then wrap up the episode by revealing the Painopolis rating we give ClinicalTrials.gov based on its usefulness, user-friendliness and cost.

By the way, ClinicalTrials.gov is loaded with lots of technological bells and whistles that can easily confound first-time users. So after you’ve listened to our review, check out our free ClinicalTrials.gov video tutorial below.

Watch our ClinicalTrials.gov demo:

EASIER THAN IT LOOKS: Give us 32 minutes, and we’ll take you on a tour of ClinicalTrials.gov.

Update:

The U.S. National Library of Medicine is in the process of revamping ClinicalTrials.gov. Consequently, the newest version will differ in some ways from how ClinicalTrials.gov looks and performs in this video tutorial.

Music:

Our theme music is “Gentle Storm,” composed and performed by Betsy Tinney (betsytinney.com).

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