How do I know if a clinical trial for hidradenitis suppurativa is right for me?

Answer From Lawrence E. Gibson, M.D.

Living with the painful symptoms and flare-ups of hidradenitis suppurativa can be frustrating. A number of treatments are available, but if you haven't been able to find relief, you might wonder if a clinical trial could be your answer.

Clinical trials can give you access to potential medications and procedures. But there are risks involved in trying new treatments. If you're considering a clinical trial for hidradenitis suppurativa, it can help to understand the types of trials available, where to find them, pros and cons, and questions to ask.

Types of clinical trials

Quite a few types of clinical trials are available. If you're looking to try something new, you might be interested in a trial that:

  • Tests new treatments — such as new drugs, surgical procedures and laser therapies — or new approaches, such as use of an existing drug to treat a different condition
  • Compares one treatment with another
  • Studies if lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet, can make a difference in the course of a disease

Other trials may look for genes involved in a disease or follow the course of a disease to learn about how the disease progresses with time.

Finding clinical trials

Your doctor is a good place to start for learning about hidradenitis suppurativa clinical trials in your area. You can also find trials on government websites, such as the Food and Drug Administration's site or Patient organizations may also help you find trials.

Clinical trial pros and cons

When you're in a clinical trial, especially a phase 1 or 2 trial, the treatment isn't specifically designed to help ease symptoms. The main goal is to test if a drug is safe and if it works. The potential treatment may not pan out, or it may have side effects that you can't tolerate.

Some trials also include a group of people given a nonactive (placebo) treatment. Researchers compare the active treatment and placebo groups to see how well a treatment works. In such a trial, you could end up receiving a placebo, though you wouldn't be told until the end of the trial.

While there can be drawbacks, a clinical trial may give you the chance to try a new treatment. And even if the trial doesn't benefit you, it may help others in the future. Consider if that's a risk you're willing to take.

Questions to ask

Don't hesitate to ask the researchers questions so that you fully understand what's involved in the trial. Possible questions include:

  • What do I need to do for this study?
  • How long will the study last?
  • What are the possible side effects?
  • Will this treatment help give me relief?
  • Can I continue my current treatments?
  • Who pays for study appointments and treatments?
  • If I have side effects related to the clinical trial, who pays for any additional treatment needed?

Talk to your doctor as part of the decision-making process. Your doctor can make sure you've considered all the pros and cons, and help coordinate your current care with any clinical trial treatments.

Jan. 04, 2019 See more Expert Answers