Where did the term “guinea pig” come from?

Dating back to the late 1800s, a German doctor by the name of Robert Koch began using these loveable creatures while conducting tests to prove which agents were responsible for bacterial diseases such as anthrax. Guinea pigs proved to be most effective for testing because of their calm and gentle demeanor as well as their surprising susceptibility to contracting infectious diseases.

In 1890, Koch became a bit overzealous in proclaiming to have found a cure for tuberculosis based on lab findings he had conducted on guinea pigs. The frenzy surrounding this supposed new-found cure propelled Koch into instant celebrity status, and when the lab tests were proven to be ineffective in humans, the overall efficacy of experimenting on animals came under fire.

Are research participants really ‘guinea pigs’?

Despite the shadows of doubt that were cast down upon animal experimentation, the level of importance in finding willing participants for clinical research remained high.

Today there are numerous FDA guidelines in place, including the Good Clinical Practice (GCP) guidelines, that ensure the safety and health of clinical research participants while also regulating the standards to which research clinics are held in their quest to discovering healthier living options for us. These guidelines help ensure that the data and reported results of these studies are credible and accurate, and that the rights, integrity and confidentiality of trial subjects are respected and protected.

Unlike unconsenting guinea pigs, those that participate in clinical trials do so on a voluntary basis and are fully informed off all risks and benefits before entering a trial.

Why should you participate?

In order for new treatments to be accessible to the general public, clinical trials must be completed. Research studies are an important part of advancing medical science and helping our community. Participants in clinical trials receive care and insight from board certified physicians at no cost.

Another exciting benefit in becoming a study participant is the early access to new treatments participants have compared to the general public. Compensation is also likely in most research studies and gives people an opportunity to be paid to take part in something that could prove to be a revolutionary medical advancement.

With these benefits in mind, it’s also imperative to understand that the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), the FDA, and the Office of Human Subjects Research Protection are all agencies that are in place to monitor a study’s ethics, standards, and the rights and safety of its participants.

Who’s ready?

So, who’s ready to gain access to these potential benefits?

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