Until about 20 years ago, researchers generally excluded women from clinical trials of drugs and other therapies, fearing possible harm to women of childbearing age-and assuming that what worked for men also would work for women.

What we now know: Women often respond differently than men do to tests and treatments.

Example: Earlier studies showed that daily low-dose aspirin significantly reduced the risk for a first heart attack among men—but later research found this benefit to be much more modest in women.

It also is important that women participate in trials for conditions that affect us more than men, such as osteoporosis and arthritis-yet few women do.

Survey: 93% of women said their doctors had never mentioned the possibility of joining a medical research study.

To find a clinical trial: For a list of recruiting studies funded by the National Institutes of Health, visit www.clinicaltrials gov. For cancer trials, see www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials. For links to disease-specific trials, see www.rarediseases.org. For more information on women and research, visit www.womancando.org or phone 202-223-8224.

Find out before signing on…

  • Purpose of the trial. Studies typically test new drugs for safety and effectiveness...older drugs for long-term effects or usefulness for additional conditions...natural treatments, such as diet and exercise...or prevention methods.
  • Type of study. Observational studies track behavior and health outcomes without intervening in participants' lives. In randomized clinical trials, participants are assigned at random to receive treatment or a placebo.
  • Benefits. If you're healthy, volunteering for a study may provide information that helps you and others stay healthy. If you are at risk for a disease, you may learn ways to lessen your risk. If you have a disease, participating may help expand treatment options for you and others-and though you may be assigned to the placebo group, you could instead receive a breakthrough therapy.
  • Potential risks—such as harm or side effects from the drug or test procedures. Be sure you understand the potential risks and have read the informed consent form carefully. If you have a disease, make sure you will at least get the generally accepted level of treatment for that condition.

Effect On Your Life And Finances

Consider whether you can handle time and travel commitments. Ask if expenses are reimbursed and/or stipends paid.

Who funds the study—government, industry or another source. A potential conflict of interest does not necessarily mean the study should be avoided, but you do want assurance that the investigators work independently from a commercial sponsor and that the sponsor cannot suppress the trial's findings

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