If you have ever taken a pill or been treated for an illness, you have seen the benefit of clinical trials. Each year, thousands of African Americans take part in clinical trials to help find ways to prevent, treat, and cure illness. Clinical trials help African Americans and all people enjoy better health.

What are clinical trials?

Why are pediatric clinical studies conducted? MANY ILLNESSES such as sickle cell anemia, asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV/ AIDS, and certain kinds of cancer, such as prostate cancer, affect African Americans more than other people. Yet, little is known about how they respond to treatment, so African American volunteers are needed to help scientists learn how different treatments affect them. When African Americans take part in clinical trials, they help improve the health of all people and provide greater understanding of health disparities.

Clinical trials, also known as “clinical research studies,” or “clinical studies,” are studies in human volunteers that try to answer specific health questions. Some clinical trials measure the safety and effectiveness of potential new treatments. Other clinical trials observe health issues and behaviors in large groups.

Clinical Trials Then and Now FOR MANY YEARS, most clinical trials were done on white men only. This meant that groups such as African Americans, women, and other minorities were not included. But today, clinical trials welcome the participation of all people, and those clinical trials are closely monitored for their safe and ethical treatment of volunteers.

How You Are Protected If You Participate

SOME AFRICAN AMERICANS still remember past abuses like the Tuskegee Experiment, in which syphilis treatment was withheld from a group of African American men for many years. People wonder if something like that could happen today. The answer is NO. Federal guidelines and codes of ethics are in place to protect clinical research volunteers from harm. In addition, an Institutional Review Board, a panel of professionals and community members, is responsible for monitoring study safety and protecting volunteer rights in every clinical trial.

What You Need to Know BEFORE YOU ENROLL in a clinical trial

It is a good idea to learn as much as you can about it. You may be interested to know that there are different kinds of clinical trials. Some need healthy volunteers while other clinical trials seek volunteers needing treatment.

A clinical trial is conducted according to a plan called a protocol, which describes:

• What types of volunteers may enter the study
• The schedules of tests and procedures, study medications and dosages
• Length of the study
• Number of study visits

Based on the requirements of the protocol, you may or may not qualify for a specific clinical trial. If you qualify for the clinical trial, you will be asked to agree in writing to follow the protocol. This is called giving informed consent.

To learn more about clinical research, please visit www.ciscrp.org.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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