My experience as a clinical research subject

I am sure I am not alone when I vaguely recall receiving a letter or a leaflet in the mail recruiting subjects for clinical research, giving it little or no thought, then walking directly from the mailbox to the recycling bin the way we all have during this last election season. I wasn’t particularly skeptical or distrusting of clinical research, either for myself or for my patients; I had just had very little exposure to it in my career.

About a year ago, my practice was approached by a clinical research firm that conducts many women’s health studies. My partner and I met with the director and the physician/principal investigator, and they shared with us the studies for which they were actively recruiting and those for which they hoped to soon be recruiting. They encouraged us to refer any interested patients for enrollment. Initial attempts at enrollment were met with some trepidation and I happened to meet eligibility criteria for one of the enrolling studies, so I signed up.

My study participation was about 1 year total and included a visit about every eight weeks. I had comprehensive lab testing, detailed physical exam, and an EKG at about every other visit and was invited to request copies of any reports. I was also financially compensated for every visit, something I was not expecting – I was given a debit card, and money was applied to it each time I completed a visit. I never waited, literally never sat down in a waiting room. I received timely text reminders before my visits. On more than 1 occasion, I was granted last-minute schedule change requests, which was probably the only reason I even crossed paths with another patient. Each visit, I received immediate, personalized attention. If I had any question or any concerning symptoms that could possibly be related to my study participation, the question was answered immediately, or I was seen at my earliest convenience for evaluation.

My overall experience being a clinical research subject felt like concierge medicine, only they were paying me! Since having this experience myself, I have managed to be far more effective at recruiting patients because I can honestly tell them what a great experience it is. A patient of mine who enrolled in another study said it even better speaking of her involvement: “I feel so important!” I have also extended my involvement in clinical research to sub-investigator!

The obvious benefit of clinical research is something that most of us understand – that it is something that we can selflessly do for the good of humanity. What is not so obvious is that there is also much to be gained for the individual subject. For me personally, I not only contributed to science and humanity (which feels awesome), I have helped many patients (patients, for example, with little or no contraceptive coverage who in their respective studies get free contraception and payment for their participation not to mention labs, imaging and more at no cost to them) and myself (I was cured of the condition that qualified me to enroll). Participation in clinical research could even be a part of one’s overall strategy for access to care.

For any patient (or any doctor-patient like myself) interested in becoming a clinical research subject, it is very easy. Go to ClinicalTrials.gov to find your study.

Maryanna Barrett is an obstetrician-gynecologist and can be reached at Not a Commodity and on Twitter @CommodityNot and Facebook.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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