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Clinical trials may be a lifesaver for some

January 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Clinical trials can be a lifesaver for many people who have exhausted all their medical options.

Medical breakthroughs are usually a result of clinical treatments. Without clinical trials, developing new ways to treat diseases and advancing medicine would be nearly impossible.

Dr. Domenic Sica, professor of internal and nephrology medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, says that often times drugs are offered free of charge as part of trials.

"The only thing you have to understand is that you are doing something that ultimately will probably help you and help others with a similar style disease," Sica said.

To find a trial, first ask your doctor. The government keeps a database of more than 117,000 current studies.

You can also check national newspapers and the websites of medical universities.

Patient advocacy groups like the American Heart Association can also help.

People considering enrolling in a clinical trial should know that whether a new treatment will work or not cannot be known ahead of time. It could even be harmful.

Even so, researchers say patients are closely monitored and can be taken off one trial and put into another until they do see some improvement.

All trials are voluntary and patients can leave at any time.