I know I've said it before and I'll very likely say it again: medical research is so important to the lives of people living with chronic illnesses.
The way RA treatment has changed in just the past few decades is a perfect example of this concept. At first there wasn't much more than aspirin or cortisone to available to treat RA. These medications may have helped control pain and reduce inflammation somewhat, but they focused only on dealing with flares - not slowing down the rate of joint deterioration - so an RA diagnosis in those days almost certainly lead to disability and deformation. It wasn't until the 1980s that methotrexate, a drug that was already being used in higher doses to treat leukemia, was identified as a potential disease modifying medication for RA. And the first biologic, etanercept/Enbrel, wasn't even approved for RA until 1998.
Since then, eight more biologics have been developed (nine if you count tofacitinib/Xeljanz, which isn't quite a biologic), and more biologics and biosimilars are currently in the pipeline. These genetically engineered proteins target specific parts of the immune system that fuel inflammation, and thus offer patients even better potential outcomes. And none of this advancement would have been possible without medical research.
So I personally think it's very important to support medical research - and even participate if there are studies that work for you. For one thing, clinical trials can be a good way to expand your treatment options, which can be useful if you're struggling to find a currently approved medication that works. Many clinical trials also offer free medical care or even compensate participants.
There are also observational research studies - meaning you don't necessarily have to take a new medication or get any specific tests, but that you still can contribute your data to the greater good. I personally find observational studies particularly compelling as that's where most of the data about pregnancy and breastfeeding safety comes from! I participated in one during my second pregnancy and I'm currently enrolled in another one now. And I've benefited from the outcomes of these trials too - because I currently have way more treatment options during my third pregnancy than were available to me just a few years ago during my first.
If you're interested in participating in research, I highly encourage you to look into the option! But I will admit that websites like ClinicalTrials.gov can be a bit difficult to manage and understand. That's why I was interested to learn about Antidote - a technology and data company focused on helping patients and caregivers easily find, understand, and connect to clinical trials.
Their widget aggregates all the open trials and makes it much easier to search for ones that you might qualify for in your area. This service is free and none of the trials are given preferential treatment. Patient confidentiality is taken very seriously, and you can search and explore the database of current trials without any of your information being gathered or shared. The only time your contact information will be collected is if you find a trial that interests you and you request to learn more.
Check out the widget below and find out about medical research in your area in just a few simple steps!
This increased effort to identify participants in clinical trials is exciting. Now if we can get one or two to central Indiana, I will be in tall cotton.
A great job you have already done. I’m really delighted to see your amazing work.
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