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Friday, June 7, 2024

How to Find and Participate in Health Studies

Thousands of clinical trials are taking place at any time. They may give you access to a new drug or process that could help you or others, and/or provide payment while you help advance medical knowledge.

Clinical research studies depend on people to participate so doctors and researchers can learn about disease in order to provide improved health care in the future. They may be studying how to improve health care delivery, or better understand how behavior impacts health and disease. Clinical research also includes trials, where scientists look at how an intervention affects health outcomes.

Senior participants are underrepresented in clinical trials, according to the Alliance for Aging Research. For example, only 25% of cancer trial enrollees are 65 and over, even though more than half of all cancers are found in that age range. Furthermore, more than a third of trials don’t find enough participants to advance, and 11% fail to enroll a single volunteer. 

What Are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are at the center of medical advances. They may be studying new drugs or combinations of drugs, or novel ways to use current treatments. Trials also take place for new medical devices and new ways to perform surgery. They may also study how changing behaviors affects outcomes. 

Virtual Clinical Trials

You don’t have to travel in order to participate in a clinical trial. Also known as remote trials or online clinical trials, virtual trials take advantage of technology to allow researchers to use smartphone apps and video conferencing to recruit from a larger pool of participants without geographic restrictions. It’s ideal for seniors and those with disabilities, as well as people who are in the workforce. Search the following sites for remote trials:
Both healthy people and people with different diseases can be valuable participants. The purpose of clinical trials is to establish protocols to prevent, detect or treat disease. Diseases and conditions being studied include cancer, Alzheimer's disease, allergy and infectious disease, and neurological disorders, among others.  

Clinical Trial Phases

Clinical trials take place in four successive steps that are called phases. Each phase has a different objective and helps researchers understand different aspects. According to the National Institutes of Health, the trial phases are:
  • Phase I trials: Researchers test a drug or treatment in a small group of people (20–80) for the first time. The purpose is to study the drug or treatment to learn about safety and identify side effects.
  • Phase II trials: The new drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people (100–300) to determine its effectiveness and to further study its safety.
  • Phase III trials: The new drug or treatment is given to large groups of people (1,000–3,000) to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it with standard or similar treatments, and collect information that will allow the new drug or treatment to be used safely.
  • Phase IV trials: After a drug is approved by the FDA and made available to the public, researchers track its safety in the general population, seeking more information about a drug or treatment’s benefits, and optimal use.

Most clinical trials in the US are approved and overseen by an Institutional Review Board that makes sure potential benefits outweigh risks, and to protect the rights and safety of participants. Each clinical trial is led by a principal investigator who has a team of researchers. They routinely monitor participant health to determine the safety and efficacy of the treatment. 

Types of Clinical Trials

There are six types of clinical trials, according to the NIH:

  • Prevention trials look for better ways to prevent a disease in people who have never had the disease or to prevent the disease from returning. Approaches may include medicines, vaccines, or lifestyle changes.
  • Screening trials test new ways for detecting diseases or health conditions.
  • Diagnostic trials study or compare tests or procedures for diagnosing a particular disease or condition.
  • Treatment trials test new treatments, new combinations of drugs, or new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Behavioral trials evaluate or compare ways to promote behavioral changes designed to improve health.
  • Quality of life trials (or supportive care trials) explore and measure ways to improve the comfort and quality of life of people with conditions or illnesses.

Payment for Participation

Most clinical trials pay participants for related time and travel, and sometimes more. Velocity, a company that conducts research, says participants are paid from $75 to $4,500 as of May 2020. Low-paying trials may involve up to a few hours of time, such as taking a survey over the phone or investigating how well packaging instructions are understood. Other low-paying trials may collect blood or saliva, or involve a nasal swab. 

Higher paying clinical trials naturally involve more time and risk. Lower study phases fit this category, as do those investigating vaccines, medicines, devices and tests. Trials that are “inpatient”, where participants have at least one overnight stay at a clinic, will usually pay more than outpatient studies. For more information on costs and payments during clinical trials, visit The Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation.

How to Find Clinical Trials

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has an online database of trials that are in process at its clinical center in Bethesda, Maryland. Trials are spread across a wide array of subjects, from rare diseases to chronic health conditions, and also include research using healthy volunteers. Search NIH trials here. is a national registry of research volunteers to connect people who want to participate in research studies with researchers looking for study participants. Funded by the NIH, it’s free and secure. It includes a list of participating research institutions by state

You can also search for research trials at Prospective participants can check for studies by condition or disease, intervention or treatment and location. You can also search for a particular treatment or study, and you can set it to search only for trials that are currently recruiting or will be recruiting participants.

With so many cutting-edge advances occurring in medicine, volunteers for medical research provide an essential component to discovering the most effective treatments and protocols.