Clinical Trials and Medical Devices

Feedback from readers has made us realize that many people think clinical trials are only for the desperate: Either those who are looking for a cure of last resort or those who need money so badly they’re willing to be human guinea pigs. While it is true that many participate in clinical trials for those reasons, the real purpose of clinical trials is to gather medical knowledge, which often leads to new treatments; for that reason, clinical trials are of wide-spread value. Of especial interest to seniors, trials are held for devices, as well as medications.

If you participate in a clinical trial, nothing like this will happen. Image courtesy: CuddlyCavies

If you participate in a clinical trial, nothing like this will happen. Image courtesy: CuddlyCavies

The FDA’s “basic” definition of a medical device is nearly 130 words long, so it’s easier to go with what they say it isn’t:  “If the primary intended use of the product is achieved through chemical action or by being metabolized by the body, the product is usually a drug.”

In other words, many devices can be non-invasive. They can be new types of monitors and sensors, some of which may be implanted under the skin, but many of which may simply be worn over clothing. They can also be assistive technologies that range from elaborate exoskeltons and other robotics to training systems for fall prevention.

Participating in a clinical trial, like donating blood or bone marrow, can be a selfless gift to people you’ll never meet, or a way to potentially help yourself or family members who suffer from particular conditions. If you are interested in discovering the wide-range of clinical trials, please check clinicaltrials.gov, which will let you search for trials by various terms, including topic and location.