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When considering volunteering for a clinical trial, it is important to make an informed decision. Below are answers to frequently asked questions that many potential volunteers have about participating in a study.
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is a research study in which volunteers receive investigational treatments under the supervision of a physician and other research professionals. These treatments are developed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who select qualified physicians, also known as investigators, to conduct clinical trials to determine the benefits of investigational drugs.
Clinical trials are usually conducted in three phases (I, II, III). Only a small number of people participate in phase I trials while the later phases involve a larger number of volunteers.
Who can participate in a clinical trial?
All clinical trials have guidelines about who can participate. Before joining a clinical trial, a volunteer must qualify for the study. The factors that allow volunteers to participate in a clinical trial are called "inclusion criteria" and the factors that disallow volunteers from participating are called "exclusion criteria." These criteria can include age, gender, the type and stage of a disease, previous treatment history, and other medical conditions.
Some research studies seek participants with specific illnesses or conditions to be studied in a clinical trial, while others require healthy participants. It is important to note that inclusion and exclusion criteria are used to identify appropriate participants, promote participants' safety, and ensure that researchers learn the information they need.
How does a clinical trial work?
In a clinical trial, a volunteer is usually assigned a specific study group. Volunteers in one study group may receive an investigational treatment or study drug while other volunteers may receive a placebo or a treatment already available. A placebo is an inactive product used to assess the experimental treatment's effectiveness. The participant, physician, and research staff may not know which volunteer receives a placebo and which receives the active treatment. Not knowing which participants are receiving the active treatment allows the physician and research staff to objectively observe the volunteers during the study. Regardless of which treatment volunteers receive, however, the level of medical attention and care that each receives is the same.
What questions should be asked before choosing to participate?
Patients considering participating in a clinical trial should talk about it with their physicians and medical caregivers. Potential volunteers should also understand the credentials and experience of the staff and the facility involved in conducting the study.
Questions to ask a physician or medical caregiver:
- How long will the trial last?
- Where is the trial being conducted?
- What treatments will be used and how?
- What is the main purpose of the trial?
- How will patient safety be monitored?
- Are there any risks involved?
- What are the possible benefits?
- What are the alternative treatments besides the one being tested in the trial?
- Who is sponsoring the trial?
- Do I have to pay for any part of the trial?
- What happens if I am harmed by the trial?
- Can I opt to remain on this treatment, even after termination of the trial?
What can volunteers expect if they choose to participate?
In some studies, participants receive a physical examination and their medical histories are reviewed by either the study physician or a research staff member once they are enrolled in the study. The volunteers' health will continue to be monitored during and after the trial. A detailed description of what's expected of volunteers will be outlined in consent forms along with specific clinical trial information.
What is informed consent?
For information about the informed consent process when participating in clinical trials, please refer to the CenterWatch publication, Understanding the Informed Consent Process.
What are the benefits and risks of joining a trial?
Volunteers in a clinical trial participate in the development of medical therapies that may offer better treatments and even cures for life-threatening and chronic diseases. However, there are risks involved.
Possible benefits for volunteers:
- Play an active role in their health care.
- Gain access to research treatments before they are widely available.
- Obtain medical care at health care facilities during the trial.
- Help others by contributing to medical research.
Possible risks for volunteers:
- There may be unpleasant, serious, or even life-threatening side effects to experimental treatment.
- The experimental treatment may not be effective.
- The protocol may require more time and attention than a non-protocol treatment, including trips to the study site, more treatments, hospital stays, or complex dosage requirements.
Please note: volunteers may withdraw from a study at any time for any reason.
Does information remain confidential and private?
Access to personal information is usually available to the investigator and research team conducting the clinical trial. In some circumstances, the IRB overseeing the research and the sponsor or contract research organization coordinating the trial will also have access to personal information. This is explained more specifically in the consent form that participating volunteers are asked to sign. As a clinical trial progresses, researchers report the results of the trial at scientific meetings, to medical journals, and to various government agencies.
What happens after the trial?
After a study phase is complete, the data is collected to determine the drug's effectiveness, if it is safe and if there are any side effects. Depending on the results, researchers then determine whether to stop testing or move to the next phase of study. After phase III of a study is complete, researchers decide if the results are medically important and may submit them to journals for peer-review. Data then may be submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval.
If a drug is approved, pharmaceutical companies may continue to conduct studies that compare the new drugin terms of its safety, effectiveness, and costto other drugs already on the market or assess a drug's long-term effectiveness and its impact on the quality of a person's life.
Clinical Research Team
Bud Green, RN, CCRC
Bud Green is a registered nurse specializing in clinical research.
He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1995 and worked for two years at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
In 1997, Bud started coordinating clinical research trials for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System. Over the next four years, he coordinated both investigator-initiated trials and industry-sponsored trials for the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Geriatrics.
He worked in the Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital for two years before joining Arkansas Psychiatric Clinic in 2002. Bud has coordinated over 50 clinical research trials and is certified through the Association for Clinical Research Professionals and has been a member of the organization since 2003.
Jessica Howdeshell, Research Coordinator
Jessica graduated from Angelo State University, part of the Texas Tech University System, with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and minor in art. She has been working in the mental health field for over 10 years. Her work experience includes working as a rehabilitation caseworker for MHMR and as a counselor for troubled youth at Youth Home, Inc. Currently, she has been working as a research coordinator for over four years.
Our clinic is currently offering several research studies regarding treatment of:
Adult Major Depression
Adult Fatigue associated with Depression
Adult Opiate Addiction Recovery
Adult Bipolar I Disorder
Adolescent Bipolar I Disorder
Adolescent Smoking Cessation.
For more information or to be screened for eligibility, please call 501-448-0112.
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Leigh Anne Bennett, M.D.
Dr. Bennett received her medical degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2000 and completed her psychiatry residency training in 2004.
She is a Board Certified psychiatrist and is currently a partner of Arkansas Psychiatric Clinic and medical director for Health Resources of Arkansas, a community mental health clinic.Read more... Link
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Arkansas Psychiatric Clinic
4 Executive Center Court
Little Rock, Arkansas 72211
4 Executive Center Court
Little Rock, Arkansas 72211