· What are the risks? Some treatments can have side effects that are unpleasant, serious and even life threatening.
· What kinds of tests and treatments does the study involve, and how often and where are they performed?
· Is the experimental treatment in the study being compared with a standard treatment or a placebo? Keep in mind that if your wife gets the placebo, she’ll be getting no treatment at all.
· Who’s paying for the study? Will you have any costs, and if so, will your insurance plan or Medicare cover the rest? Sponsors of trials generally pay most of the costs, but not always.
· What if something goes wrong during or after the trial and your wife needs extra medical care? Who pays?
· If the treatment works, can your wife keep using it after the study?
Find a trial: Every year, there are more than 100,000 clinical trials conducted in the U.S. You can find them at condition-focused organizations like the American Cancer Society or the Alzheimer’s Association or by asking her doctor, who may be monitoring trials in his or her specialty.
Or use the National Institutes of Heath’s website at clinicaltrials.gov. This site contains a comprehensive database of federally and privately supported clinical studies in the U.S. and abroad on a wide range of diseases and conditions, including information about each trial’s purpose, who may participate, locations and phone numbers for more details.
If, however, you don’t have Internet access or could use some help finding the right trial, use the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (ciscrp.org). This is a nonprofit organization that will take your wife’s information over the phone and do a thorough clinical trials search for you and mail or email you the results in a few days. Call 877-633-4376 for assistance.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.