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Clinical Trials

A disturbing sentence jumped out at me in the January 2019 Scientific American. “Most cancer patients never get into lifesaving drug trials because of barriers at community hospitals,” wrote David H. Freedman in Out of Reach. Freedman reports that people who get their medical care away from big-name, big-city academic medical centers are less likely to enroll in clinical trials.

Drugs that are being tested in studies often are the best hope for good results, especially with serious medical conditions, such as cancer. I participated in a hepatitis C clinical trial in 2013. At that point, I had lived with hep C for 25 years, and it was starting to do significant damage to my liver. Two prior treatments had failed to cure me, and even if I could wait for a few more years for a cure, I had lousy insurance with a high-deductible. I didn’t hesitate. It was worth the 6 hour round trip drive.

The top reason why cancer patients said they did not participate in a clinical trial was that they were not aware of any studies. A fairly large but old (2009) study reported that 81 percent of cancer patients didn’t discuss studies with their medical providers.

Not all clinical trials are appropriate, but they shouldn’t be viewed as last ditch options. A good study can be an wonderful experience. How do you figure out what is right for you? I suggest you start with learning some basic facts about studies. Hepmag.com has excellent information about clinical trials.

If you want to look for a study, talk to your doctor, or visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s  Clinical Trials website. (https://clinicaltrials.gov/)

Participating in a clinical trial can be incredibly rewarding. First, you may get to try a new drug sooner than you otherwise would. Second, you are taking part of making history and making a difference. It can be a wonderful experience.

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