Clara, a free online tool for easy access to clinical trials and breakthrough treatments. All opinions remain my own.
I know I’ve said this before and I’ll very likely say it again (and again and again!): research is so very important for people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and other chronic illnesses.
My personal interaction with scientific research has primarily been related to figuring out which RA treatment options are considered compatible during pregnancy and breastfeeding. As I type this, 32 weeks pregnant with baby number three, it’s crazy to reflect back on how much the data on this subject has changed in just the past few years.
With my first pregnancy, I was advised to stop almost all of my RA meds while pregnant, and I had to make the heart-wrenching decision to wean my son well before I was ready so I could re-start my treatment. With my second pregnancy, my RA flared badly and I had to make the difficult decision to re-start a biologic during pregnancy, even though I had previously been advised against it.
However, my second son and I contributed our data to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) Autoimmune Diseases in Pregnancy Project in the hopes of helping scientists learn more about the impact of biologic medications on pregnancy. So I was particularly thrilled to see some results of that study announced at the 2017 American College of Rheumatology Annual Meeting – notably that using a biologic medication to manage RA during pregnancy does not appear to significantly increase the infant’s risk of developing serious opportunistic infections after birth.
So not only was I able to contribute data to a study that increases treatment options for women with RA who want to become pregnant, I am now personally benefiting from that outcome myself! With my third pregnancy there is now enough data to support the safety of using a biologic during pregnancy and breastfeeding – and I’m doing considerably better as a result!
Of course, this advancement in treatment options is only possible if patients actually agree to participate in research studies. But even if you’re willing to participate in scientific research, how do you find a study or trial? I used the Mother to Baby pregnancy registry, but what if you aren’t pregnant? You can try ClinicalTrials.gov, but I have to admit that it isn’t particularly easy to navigate.
And that’s where Clara can help. Clara is a free online tool that helps connect patients to clinical trials and breakthrough treatments. You can search the site by medical condition, location, age, sex, and/or treatment and the guide will handpick studies that you might be eligible for.
While there are similar trial-matching services out there, Clara is unique in that they help their members through every single step of the process. Clara Guides can answer questions like “what should I know before starting a trial?” and “what happens after the trial ends?” And once you find a trial you might be interested in, Clara can help you reach out to the researchers to get all the information you need. Clara can even help you schedule your visits, arrange for travel, and coordinate with your insurance provider.
If you’re interested in learning more and potentially contributing to scientific research yourself, I highly encourage you to check out the widgets below! I promise that patients down the line - including me! - will thank you!