For Patients
If you've ever taken medication, received a type of therapy or used a medical device of any sort –and just about everyone has –there's a very good chance that it was developed through a form of research that includes clinical trials, carefully-designed studies that help determine if a drug treatment or other approach to health care is safe and effective for humans. Creating a clinical trial is a joint effort between the public or private organizations sponsoring the research, patients, physicians, medical centers and a range of other medical and research specialists who administer the study and collect the data.

James talks about his clinical trial experience: The information I got about the study I volunteered for was fairly extensive. It was intended that way so my family and I would have everything we needed to know before making the decision to participate. This particular study was about comparing some different anticoagulants for people with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can lead to stroke. A while back I had some open heart surgery and was taking a blood thinning medication called Coumadin to help avoid blood clots -- and I stayed on it because it also helped avoid problems with the A-fib.

There were some side effects though and I had to avoid foods high in vitamin K, like kale and spinach, so I was open to seeing if something else would be as effective without some of the problems. The way the clinical trial was put together, I didn't know which of the drugs I was taking or the dosage, but I sensed it was the not the Coumadin. I felt a little better overall but was especially noticing that I didn't bleed so much when I'd get a nick or scrape working in the yard.

I ended up getting blood tests and other monitoring on a monthly, then a weekly basis during the study. The whole time I felt like I was getting the information I wanted, all my questions were answered and I was very impressed with how much effort the physician and nurses involved in the study were putting in to make sure everything went well.

As it turns out I'm taking a blood thinning drug now that wasn't included in the clinical trial and seem to be doing pretty well on it. I learned even more about my condition from taking part in the research and at my age –I'm almost 85 –it's never a bad thing to keep on learning.

Cathy describes her research study: I have multiple sclerosis and I think it's pretty safe to say that I'm always looking for anything that can bring some improvement. When I met with the people running the clinical trial at Riverside they gave me all the information I needed and got me started. I felt like they were very supportive and they even gave me their home or personal numbers in case I had any concerns, and that turned out to come in handy.

The clinical trial was looking for effectiveness and potential adverse reactions for a new MS drug. Specifically the focus was on the flu-like symptoms that some people have with MS medications in general and when they transition from one drug to another. Unlike what I was taking, the new medication was injected right under the skin rather than into a muscle, so it was easier for me to self-inject it without needing any help. Plus I only had to inject it every two weeks instead of every week.

I'm currently taking an oral medication for my MS which seems to be effective with fewer side effects. During the clinical trial I used a digital journal that I would download into the Riverside research data base. All in all the experience was positive and I felt like it helped me look at things like self-care and the value of information to a greater degree. Right now there's no cure for the disease, so I felt like I made a real contribution to the whole MS community by taking part in the research.