Most people believe that volunteers in clinical trials are human guinea pigs who do it exclusively for the money, especially if they do if for the big pharmaceutical companies, however in many other cases volunteers may get involved driven by the desire to help others, others have a growing interest in medical developments and in the majority of the cases it is the need to gain access to otherwise unavailable new treatments.
Universities, hospitals, governments and pharmaceutical companies all over the world test - often in collaboration, thousands of promising new treatments on human subjects.
In the UK, the number of people taking part in trials and studies has trebled in the last five years to almost 600,000, according to the National Institute for Health Research’s Clinical Research Network (CRN).
Despite the fact that the numbers have trebled, the NIHR has launched a campaign - OK to Ask - on International Clinical Trials Day on 20 May, which is aimed at encouraging patients to ask their doctors about clinical research.
In a recent consumer poll, only 21% of patients and the public said that they would feel confident asking their doctor about research opportunities, hence the campaign that will continue throughout 2013 and also in 2014.
At the present the vast majority of volunteers who take part in clinical trials are patients with a specific illness and the trials scientifically test not only new drugs, but also methods, as each of the thousands of clinical trials has established guidelines, goals and needs for specific types of volunteers.
Not only do people with specific illnesses take part in trials, but healthy volunteers are often recruited to test new treatments in what is called first-in-man trials and the first phase of a trial is carefully designed, regulated and monitored to ensure that any risks are keep to a minimum and look at the risk versus benefit of a medicine.
If you are interested and want to know about volunteering, just check out the NHS website and the clinical trials and medical research page for more info.