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How to Volunteer in a Clinical Trial

Do You Qualify for a Clinical Trial?
If you're interested in volunteering, is a good place to start.
If you're interested in volunteering, is a good place to start.

Generally, finding a clinical trial to participate in as just a mouse-click away. There are many sites online -- among them sites published by governments, research groups and nonprofits -- that list thousands of trials that are in need of test subjects. Every state in the U.S. has ongoing clinical trials within its borders. Some trials take place over dozens or even hundreds of locations, while others take place in one exclusive location. Sometimes recruitment efforts for clinical trials are made in newspapers, classified ads or flyers posted in public places.

Each clinical trial has established guidelines, goals and needs for specific types of volunteers. Clinical trials have specific inclusion criteria that determines who is eligible to participate in the trial. Researchers may need healthy subjects, or subjects with the specific condition the new drug is intended to treat. Clinical trials will also have exclusion criteria, which outlines who isn't eligible to participate. People who drink or smoke, for instance, may be excluded, or even people who exercise too much. Volunteers' medical histories play a role, because researchers usually don't want subjects with complicated health histories that may skew results. Inclusion criteria and exclusion criteria may each involve specific parameters for age, race, gender, weight and pre-existing health conditions.

If you don't qualify for a clinical trial for a drug you feel you may benefit from and you are without other strong options for treatment of your condition, you may qualify for expanded access or expanded protocol testing. This takes your needs into consideration and allows for leeway in the criteria for inclusion. If you're in it for the money, though, you better meet the trial's specific criteria.

Clinical trials last for different lengths of time and may require you to remain at a facility for the entire duration of the trial. Others request you check in daily, or several times a day. Before participating, you will be informed about the treatment and its intended uses, including possible benefits and risks. Often a full physical will be performed, though sometimes extensive questionnaires will be used instead to collect needed data to see if a potential subject is eligible to participate. If accepted into a clinical trial, you may receive the treatment, or you may receive a placebo -- you won't know until after the study is completed.