Top 5 Misconceptions About Clinical Trials

By: Kristen Gurnea

November 08, 2022

Medical professional going over test results with female patient

There are many misconceptions about clinical research, so we have unpacked a few common myths we hear to help you make an informed decision in your healthcare.

Misconception #1: If I join a clinical trial, I’ll just be a guinea pig.

Quite the opposite is true! Through honest and respectful conversation, we ensure all participants are informed of the benefits and risks associated with the clinical trial during the informed consent process. Being in a clinical trial is voluntary, and we respect our patients’ decision to join or decline to participate in the clinical trial. You can always change your mind at any time as well. When patients join a clinical trial, they receive an additional team of healthcare professionals, including additional physicians, pharmacists and research coordinators, dedicated to their safety and well-being. This means that clinical trial participants often receive more support than they would in the standard treatment setting.

Misconception #2: Clinical trials are too dangerous because they use new treatments that haven’t been tested.

We recognize that there are different levels of risk associated with participating in a clinical trial depending on the type of study. However, new treatments are only reviewed through clinical trials after they have gone through extensive testing. New treatments that do not show promising results for safety and potential benefit during laboratory testing do not receive approval to begin clinical trials. Your research team reviews any expected benefits and risks identified from previous studies during the informed consent process, as well as any updates that occur throughout the duration of the clinical trial. The research team stays in close contact with you during the entire process, documenting and treating any side effects that you experience for both your safety and the safety of participants like you.

Misconception #3: I don't want to join a trial because I could be wasting my time receiving a placebo.

A placebo is a substance that has no therapeutic effect, sometimes called a “sugar pill.” Participants who receive a placebo during a clinical trial are very important, helping researchers definitively determine the specific good and bad effects of the new medication. Many clinical trials that involve a placebo also offer what is called an open label extension or cross-over study. Cross-over studies ensure that anyone taking the placebo can begin receiving the new medication, often for several years. Cross-over studies help clinician researchers understand the long-term effects of a medication while also giving patients free access to novel care for several months and even years.

Misconception #4: Clinical trials are a last resort for patients with no other options.

This is certainly true for some patients, but there are clinical trials available for patients with many different health conditions at all stages of their diagnosis. Some clinical trials aim to diagnose conditions as early as possible while others focus on improving quality of life for patients with late-stage diseases and everything in between. The standard care we receive today was developed thanks to patients who participated in all kinds of clinical trials. Without clinical trial participants, new medications cannot be approved and made available to help more patients live longer and healthier lives.

Misconception #5: I don’t have time for a clinical trial; they’re too much work and too expensive.

The time commitment for participants on a clinical trial varies based on the complexity of the study. Some clinical trials only involve one visit, while others require weekly or monthly check-ins with the study team, as well as additional scans and lab testing. These additional visits, labs or scans help the researcher physicians monitor and address any side effects quickly. Your research team ensures you are well informed about what is required for the clinical trial during the informed consent discussion before you decide to participate. Many studies offer travel reimbursement and visit stipends to make it easier for patients to participate. Federal law also requires most health insurance plans to cover routine costs for patient care in clinical trials under certain conditions. Any visits, labs or scans that are required only for the clinical trial’s purposes are covered by the clinical trial sponsor. Your research team monitors clinical trial billing closely to ensure that you do not receive an incorrect bill.

It is important that participating in a clinical trial does not become a time or financial burden because we want to ensure anyone who wants to participate can do so.

At Renown Health, our goal is to make it easy for patients to access clinical research as a care option where patients can access a variety of standard care treatment options for their health condition or choose to participate in a clinical trial. For more information about clinical trial opportunities available to you or to ask any questions, contact the Renown Research Office at or 775-982-3646.

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