Consider participating in a clinical trialBy Dr. Veita Bland / August 24, 2017
One of the most important ways that the medical community establishes how well a medication or procedure works is to conduct clinical trials. These are when the new medication or new combination of medications or a new procedure is given to humans to see how well it works. Usually, there are animal trials first but then we need to know how the medication works in humans. This is such an important step. It helps us determine whether a medication works differently in various ethnic groups.
We know that certain medications may work better in Whites than Blacks or work better in certain age groups. An example of that would be that we know that a class of medications known as ACE inhibitors works better in lowering blood pressures in Whites than it does in Blacks. Blacks who take this medication often experience the side effect of a cough and a small percentage may have a reaction that swells their respiratory system. This same medication though is great for the heart and kidneys in all ethnic groups.
There are different phases of medical trials. Phase I is the first time a medication is given to humans. The research participants are monitored very closely and may be confined to a facility so they can be monitored. Phase II is when there is further refinement of the medication dosage. Most clinical studies for medications and procedures are Phase III. Here large numbers of participants are needed to determine just how good a new medication or procedure is. These are the steps used to gain approval for the medication or procedure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are very closely regulated. All phases of studies must be pre-approved by the FDA in order to be performed. Phase IV is when the medication or procedure has been approved by the FDA and additional information or indications for the medication or procedure is sought. Millions of dollars are spent to ensure that the study participants are safe.
One of the major problems that clinical trials have is in recruiting people of color to participate. The FDA has mandated that certain clinical trials have a certain percentage participation of people of color. This is particularly challenging in the Black community.
There is the problem of a lack of trust by many in the Black community of the medical community. There is the fear that they are being used as experiments. How often have I heard the history of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study or more recently, the story of Henrietta Lacks?
When one is in a clinical study you are monitored much more closely than you would be normally. More blood work is needed and frequent office visits may be needed, especially in the beginning. This is all to keep the participant safe.
Some complain that the time commitment may be the problem. Most of these clinical trials understand that and will work around the participant’s schedule.
All of these trials provide free medical care during the time of participation in the trial and there is always a monetary compensation for your time. Hopefully, there is the satisfaction of knowing that your participation in this clinical trial has helped others to be cared for in a better way.
The participants in the trials are closely monitored and the information is so greatly needed. Consider participating in a clinical trial. It could be a rewarding experience.
Dr. Veita Bland is a board certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on North Carolina A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays. Email Dr. Bland at firstname.lastname@example.org.