More volunteers needed for clinical research trials

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FAIRWAY, Kan. -- Advances in medicine are being delayed by too few people volunteering for research. Many don't know about studies they could be in and others don't trust those doing research, but perceptions could be changing.

Once a week, Randy Larson of Independence comes to the KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway. He wants to help himself and others  who have ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease) --  a disease that steals movement and kills.

“It’s the hand that's dealt to you so gotta live with it and do your best,” Larson said.

For Larson, that means taking part in a study of a pill.

“Benefit somebody, you know?” Larson said.

Go to the government's clinical trials' website -- and you see a need for many more people like Randy. Thousands of  studies are recruiting patients.

Three years into one study of Alzheimer's Disease and exercise, KU’s Dr. Jeffrey Burns is still looking for 20 volunteers.

Dr. Burns said strict criteria for some studies make it difficult.  So can  a lack of awareness or little money for advertising. But some people don't want to take part because they think risks far outweigh benefits.

“Some studies are high risk. Most are not and we spend great amount of time and attention to details to minimize risk,” Dr. Burns said.

Still others don't trust the motives of researchers.

But a new study finds public perception of clinical trials is improving compared to eight years ago.  Now, less than a quarter of people believe study participants are gambling with their health.

And less than a third think study sponsors won't inform the public quickly about safety concerns. Dr. Burns said those are good signs.

“Essentially every medical advance is dependent on participation,” Dr. Burns said.

Because Larson stepped up, there could be more to fight a devastating disease.  The study of public perceptions was done by "The Center for Information and Study of Clinical Research Participation."

For more on K.U. clinical trials, call 913-588-6290.  For cancer clinical trials, call 913-945-7552.

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1 Comment

  • Matt Miller

    This is still an issue that the industry is suffering from, even today. A great deal of clinical trials only enroll a single patient to their programs, and a similarly high percentage of programs fail to enroll a single volunteer. Despite this, I do not feel that clinical research programs are lacking in volunteers because people don’t want to participate, but rather because they are being left uneducated about what is involved in being a volunteer for clinical research. I feel that this is where CROs and clinical sites can improve the most, in educating potential study volunteers about the importance of clinical research, and what they can expect should they choose to participate. People generally avoid the unknown. It will take the combined effort of these CROs and sites to make clinical research a very familiar, very known activity, especially within special patient populations. Educations and trust-building are the key to increasing patient enrollment. Combine this with excellent recruitment strategy and your trial is sure to succeed.