Friday, April 22, 2011

Medical studies: Should you participate?

I don't often blog about it, but I participate in medical studies fairly frequently.  I've done one study on continuous glucose monitors, two on new kinds of insulin, and one on a new kind of glucose monitor.

No matter what the study is, I generally enjoy participating very much.  I wish I could say that I do it to help out the study of diabetes and to benefit other diabetics, but I'm afraid I'm not that noble.  Some of the biggest reasons I do it are because I get to try out cool new medicines and gadgets for free, because the studies generally pay for all of my supplies, and because on top of all that, I get paid for it too.  It's not a ton of money, but it's a nice little bonus, especially at the end of a long study.

How much they pay varies from study to study.  I recently did one that paid $100 for just one day.  That made getting up at 5:30am in order to get to my doctor's office by 6am totally worth it!  Other studies may just pay $30 or $40 per office visit, but when you're in a study that lasts for months, that can really add up (and they pay it all at the end).  I was in another study where I got a gas card every time I came in, which was highly appreciated considering gas prices lately, and the fact that I live across town from my doctor's office.

It also varies whether the medicine you get to try out really has any benefit to you.  I didn't get to try out the new glucose meter, for instance, just had to give some blood for testing purposes.  For one of the insulin studies I was in, I was actually randomly put into the control group, so I didn't get to try out the new insulin at all.  (I didn't mind much, though, since they still paid for all my supplies during the study.)  Another study I did, however, introduced me to a fantastic new type of insulin that I will be switching to the instance the FDA approves it.

Finally, not everyone feels this way, but I find the studies to be very interesting.  I like getting to see firsthand the process that companies have to go through in order to gather enough data to submit their medicine or device to the FDA.  I like meeting other people in the studies, both the other participants and the research assistants.  I haven't had the pleasure of knowing other diabetics, so it's always nice to talk to others with the same condition.

My point is, though, that there are a lot of good reasons for participating in medical studies, and not all of them are altruistic.  In my opinion it's well worth asking your doctor's office if they have any opportunities for you to participate in studies, and if not, where else you can check.  It seems like university hospitals have the most opportunities, but some studies will even be advertised on Craigslist!

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