An athlete has an MRI at the Queensland Brain Institute

For people with chronic or incurable conditions, there’s only one thing scarier than the experimental treatments involved in a clinical trial — getting the placebo.

When faced with the prospect of a life plagued by burdensome pain or an early death, the promise of a clinical trial is often their only hope.

For some it’s a fast track to the latest scientific developments at no cost, but for others it can be too easily viewed as the proverbial panacea, the last great hope for a cure.

Experts say the reality is far different, sometimes clinical trials:

  • Test human safety rather than effectiveness
  • Are open to only a narrow set of people
  • Involve lots of forms and tests

Ultimately the results can be mixed: Sometimes too small to be considered statistically significant or the drug regime is too expensive to get funding subsidies for sometime.

In Australia more than 5 million people took part in clinical trials in the decade leading up to 2015, but internationally our clinical trial rates are lacklustre compared to countries like Switzerland, Denmark and New Zealand.

Now, the number of such trials in the country is getting a boost with the Federal Government announcing $248 million in this year’s budget to boost the number of clinical trials in Australia.

It includes developing a feasibility study to create a one-stop-shop for clinical trials.