New drugs and surgical procedures are being developed every day to treat a range of illnesses, and eye care is no exception. But before a new drug or procedure can be used in standard eye care, it must go through rigorous testing in clinical trials.
Would you be surprised to learn that Illinois Eye Center (IEC) participates in clinical trials? Since 2015, IEC has been proud to participate in the development of new treatments for a range of eye conditions. Keep reading to learn about our research efforts and how you could be part of them.
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is a type of research study, where “investigational” medications or procedures are used to test the safety and efficacy of a medication given to patients with ocular diseases. These medications/procedures are not FDA approved for commercial use at the time of the study. Often times, the studies that IEC participates in are a continuum of prior studies involving the same type of medications/procedures, and is the next step in the process of gaining FDA approval.
Many trials are double-masked, meaning neither the doctor nor the patient will know if they are receiving the actual investigational medication, or a placebo or sham. By utilizing a placebo or sham it helps to determine the effectiveness of the investigational drug or lack thereof. In any event, a patient’s ocular health is monitored closely and treatments may be altered if necessary.
What kinds of clinical trials does IEC participate in?
IEC participates in clinical trials for drugs and surgical procedures for treating a range of eye conditions. Some of these conditions include the following:
- Ocular hypertension
- Pediatric myopia (nearsightedness)
- Macular degeneration
Many trials are double-blind, which means a placebo is used. A placebo looks like a drug or mimics a procedure but doesn’t have any active ingredients. That means you may not receive an investigational medication. Instead, you may receive a “sham” procedure (for example, you may receive an injection but no medication). Placebos give researchers something to compare the investigational medication or procedure to and help them determine if it is effective.
Why should you consider joining a clinical trial?
People often have different reasons for joining a trial. Some people, for example, join because they are looking for new treatment options because they’ve had little success with others in the past.
IEC Research Coordinator Lori Hendershott, however, thinks that helping future patients is a big motivator for some people, especially those with hereditary eye conditions. During an interview with a potential participant for a macular degeneration trial (a genetic condition), Lori noted that “one of the patient’s reasons for joining the study, was the hope that her participation can benefit her daughters in the future.”
How can you join a clinical trial?
In order to be considered for one of the Clinical Trials, your doctor will review your ocular health and make sure that you meet the requirements of the inclusion/exclusion criteria for the individual study. If they feel you are a good candidate, the doctor will give you a broad overview of the study and the Research Coordinator will discuss it in greater detail with you and review the consent of participation while answering any questions that you may have.
You will be given a consent to take and review and if you chose to participate, you will sign the consent at your first Research appointment, prior to any Research procedures or testing being done. Participation in the study is totally voluntary and you may withdraw at any time within the study. If you chose to withdraw from the study, this does not affect your eye care and you would be placed back in the normal routine of care, provided by your doctor for your ocular health.
All testing while participating in the study, will be done at no charge to the patient. The patient must understand that some visits can be lengthy due to the testing required by the study. Some studies may require blood work and an EKG be done.
How could IEC research efforts impact your care?
While considering joining a clinical trial will never impact your ability to receive care at IEC, it’s important to know that trial participation has some additional time requirements. For example, you may receive more testing (at no cost to you) and must spend more time at the eye clinic than you would during your regular eye care visits. Testing often includes blood and urine tests.
What we learn from clinical trials could lead to new treatments for a range of conditions, offering you more effective options for your eye care.
Interested in joining a clinical trial at IEC? Check out some of our open and enrolling trials today!