POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWTI) — St. Lawrence Health is reminding residents of clinical trials that are taking place in the North Country in honor of Clinical Trials Day on May 20.

The purpose of the day is to recognize those who conduct and participate in clinical trials, including St. Lawrence Health.  The day also affords the opportunity to share education and awareness about research and the countless medical advances that have been made as a direct result of clinical trials, according to SLH Clinical and Rural Health Research Director Carly Lovelett, CCRP. She also stressed the importance of offering clinical services to residents.

“It is particularly important to celebrate Clinical Trials Day in the North Country because St. Lawrence Health’s Clinical and Rural Health Research Department is one of the relatively few non-academic health centers offering clinical trials in rural America,” Lovelett said. “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, having an established research department allowed us to offer pivotal clinical trials to our patients. The investigative treatments involved in the trials were not yet available outside a clinical trial setting.”

As of May 17, SLH was offering clinical trials for different diseases in Rheumatology, Pulmonology, and Neurology and an inpatient COVID-19 trial. The health organization reminded residents that they can still join clinical trials after the initial start date if the study is open for enrollment. 

Lovelett stressed the importance of the trials and the difference they can make in society.

“Patients will be provided with the opportunity to potentially receive treatment for a disease before the treatment is widely available,” Ms. Lovelett said. “Furthermore, while they are playing an active role in their personal health care, they are also contributing to the advancement of research and medicine, which could benefit future patients.”

SLH also assured patients that trials are based on safety and are reviewed by multiple governing bodies to assess the safety and to ensure that potential benefits outweigh any potential risks. Lovelett reminded people that there are risks of side effects for any treatment, whether or not it is being provided in a clinical trial setting.

“Background information about the treatment, expectations and potential risks and benefits are all discussed during the informed consent process. We want to assure each patient has all the necessary information to make the decision to participate or not,” Lovelett said. “To minimize the risk of any side effects, we keep in close contact with our patients and encourage them to promptly report any changes in their health so the doctor overseeing the study can assess if it is related to the study drug and if there is any need for a treatment change.”

One participant shared that they enjoyed being a part of a trial through SLH and that the staff was accommodating throughout the process.

“I found everyone to be very professional, and they didn’t hesitate to explain anything when I questioned it,” the participant stated. “I did not have any side effects, and was very pleased that this treatment worked so well for me.”

According to the health organization, the level of commitment requested of a patient varies across trials. An average trial will have monthly follow-up visits during a year of involvement. Research visits closely resemble normal physician appointments, and often include additional procedures that help researchers best understand the treatment involved in the study and how the patient is progressing throughout the trial.

Additionally, most trials will provide compensation for time and travel associated with research visits. Lovelett added that participants are able to stop engaging in the trial at any time.

“A patient who is already enrolled in a trial can stop at any time, typically with the option to either stop the investigational treatment, but continue to come in for follow-up visits, or stop the investigational treatment and no longer have scheduled research follow-up visits,” Lovelett said.

More information about clinical research conducted through St. Lawrence Health can be found here.