How You Can Make a Difference by Volunteering for Medical Research Studies

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Modern medicine is miraculous in a lot of ways. People are living longer, better lives as a result of advancements in medicine. To that end, medical research studies are critical to moving medicine forward. Yesterday, the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center put out a press releaseandnbsp;regarding the important role that healthy volunteers play in the process of clinical drug development.

They report on the growing need for healthy people to take part in medical research studies. These people who donate their time and bodies for science are the reasons that breakthroughs in medicine are even possible. This is important for phase 1 clinical trials and then for each step along the way to getting a drug or treatment to market.

Terry Novchich, director of the Penn State College of Medicine Clinical Trials Office, says, “Participating as a healthy volunteer is one way that individuals can actually contribute to the development of new medications, devices or procedures.”

Before a drug or treatment can be used on a patient, researchers need to know how it impacts the human body. It can have a very different effect on people than it had during animal trials. Researchers need healthy people to take part in medical research studies to get that information.

Dr. Neal Thomas, associate dean of clinical research at the College of Medicine said, “We have to understand how these medications and therapies work in healthy individuals; how they’re processed by the body; how they’re broken down. All that information is extremely important before vulnerable patients with disease are given the therapy.”

Healthy people also help researchers better understand the mechanisms of different diseases. Thomas added, “There is testing being done in humans to see either how disease develops or how the body responds to certain stress.”

One good example is some work that has been conducted by the Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute. They have developed an array of different experiments they do on healthy people. This helps them understand the way different stimuli will impact the blood vessels. Better understanding of how the human body deals with and reacts to disease is a good first step to finding how to help people who are sick.

Thomas said, “In this research, as a healthy volunteer, you are not receiving a medication but your body is being tested for certain stimuli.”

Different medical research studies need different things. Researchers need to see people who are of just about every age. They need senior citizens but they also need young people to take part in this important research.

At the same time, no two medical research studies are the same. They all have their own needs from the people who volunteer. You can find a clinical study where all you need to do is fill out a survey. There are others that require people to undergo testing, take the drug that is being worked on and have their blood taken.

One thing that participants can expect from every research study on the planet is to be totally informed of everything that will be expected of them. Before the study is started, researchers will let them know what the study will and will not include. No one is ever forced to be involved in a research study. Thomas noted, “The participant will have a full understanding of exactly what is expected, what the potential risks are, and what the potential benefits are.”

The Food and Drug Administration requires drugs and devices undergo years of study before people can even be brought into the process for medical research studies. There are drugs and devices that spend ten years, or more, in this part of the process before they reach the clinical research phase. These devices and drugs still have a lengthy research road to take before they reach stores. There are drugs and devices that waited more than two decades to get from the idea stage to the store shelf.

The problem that researchers have is that only 1% of people in the United States take part in medical research studies.

Novchich says, “One of the biggest things is for individuals to talk to their physicians and their care providers about research.”

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