In recent years, Tokyo has experienced a surge in clinical trial opportunities, creating a diverse landscape for local and foreign participants—especially for women. Traditionally underrepresented in clinical studies, women are now at the forefront of medical advancements, with a particular focus on diseases that disproportionately affect them.

This increase is driven by the import and export of medications and the necessity for comparison studies. Government approvals hinge on the results of non-Japanese and Japanese participants taking the same medication. This increase is driven by the import and export of medications and the necessity for comparison studies. Government approvals hinge on the results of non-Japanese and Japanese participants taking the same medication.

If successfully enrolled, volunteers will be financially compensated for their time and effort while enjoying considerable free time during the study, making it financially rewarding and contributing to modern healthcare’s scientific progress and advancement. 

However, with great opportunities come great responsibilities, and volunteers are advised to be discerning. Before deciding to participate, reviewing trial information is crucial, ensuring that volunteers align with the trial’s goals and requirements.

Participation in Clinical Trials – Risks

medical study nurse in japan
While usually completely safe, you should be aware of risks.

The term “clinical research” often conjures images of high-risk experimentation. While these stories make for compelling narratives, the reality of most clinical trials is far more mundane. The primary purpose revolves around closely and carefully observing the concentration of a drug in the body after administration.

Moreover, a trial may take considerable time to complete. Participants are typically required to stay in a hospital for the study, which can span several days to a few weeks and involve follow-up visits. It’s essential to ensure you can handle the physical and mental demands of being confined to a trial without your usual routine and commit to the time away from other obligations.

Talking with physicians regarding concerns about adverse events and side effects is important. However, the associated risks are typically on par with those during commercial air travel—mild and temporary discomfort, such as headaches or dizziness. Still, the majority of participants do not experience any side effects.

There are also financial and ethical grounds to avert serious issues and safeguard the well-being of participants. Consequently, most clinical research facilities and physicians exert considerable effort to ensure participant safety and a comfortable research stay.

Considerations for Potential Participants

nurse gives vaccine in Japan
Doctors and nurses will take utmost care to keep you comfortable.

Before jumping into a trial, candidates should prioritize ensuring a clinical trial’s credibility, such as checking the informed consent document to confirm that the trial was reviewed by an institutional review board (IRB) for approval.

During screenings, candidates should ask:

  • Is the informed consent document and supporting information clear and understandable?
  • Are questions addressed promptly and thoroughly?
  • Are the hospital staff competent and helpful?

Benefits of Clinical Trial Participation

You’ll find yourself with a lot of free time.

Participation in clinical trials offers a range of benefits beyond contributing to medical research. 

The clinic stay period also presents a unique opportunity for participants to enjoy free time—whether it be studying or work-related—and these circumstances come with an added benefit: a chance to detoxify the body.

Abstaining from smoking, alcohol, caffeine and other substances during the clinic stay might be appealing to candidates seeking a healthier lifestyle. Beyond personal gains, participation actively contributes to medical research, improving the quality of available medicines for people living in Japan and, potentially, the world.

What to Expect at Screenings

Clinical trial study in Japan
Be upfront with any concerns you might have.

Attending the screening and information session is the easiest way to understand and evaluate whether a particular study is for you. Attending an information session also offers benefits even for those unsure about participating. These sessions, lasting about three hours, guide participants through a comprehensive process:

  1. Check-In, Questionnaire and Informed Consent: Participants complete a questionnaire about their health background and lifestyle after checking in, which takes 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Explanatory Session: A video presentation provides information about the clinical trial and the drug being tested. This 30- to 45-minute session outlines the main points covered in the informed consent document. A question-and-answer session with one of the study doctors follows the video.
  3. Health Check: This involves measuring height and weight, conducting an ECG, checking blood pressure, performing an X-ray and collecting blood and urine samples for laboratory tests. The health check takes around one hour and includes a free physical examination and a brief interview with a doctor.
  4. Wrap-up and Payment: Participants receive a brief explanation about the next steps and are compensated with a cash payment, usually from ¥5,000 to ¥8,000, after the health check. This wrap-up and payment process takes approximately 30 minutes.

Additionally, any type of visa (including tourist) is acceptable to participate as long as the visa remains valid throughout the trial. This ensures that individuals from diverse backgrounds can seize the opportunity to contribute to medical advancements.

Eligibility and Things to Keep in Mind

You could take part in the next breakthrough medicine in Japan.

Eligibility in clinical studies is influenced by several factors, with various restrictions in place to ensure participant safety and maintain control over medication variables. Factors that may render an individual ineligible for participation in a clinical study include:

  • Current medical conditions and medical history
  • Recent use of specific prescription medications
  • Food and drug allergies

These criteria are crucial benchmarks, and individuals are encouraged to assess these prerequisites. Furthermore, prospective participants should be prepared for the competitive nature of clinical trials. Even if all requirements are met, participation is not guaranteed.

How to Participate

Participation opportunities in clinical trials are often not publicly promoted, as pharmaceutical manufacturers tend to maintain confidentiality around the plans and particulars of their new medications.

The best way to apply for a clinical trial is to sign up via the Clinical Trials Tokyo website. You can find recruitment for upcoming trials, and by registering, you’ll receive emails and direct invitations about upcoming studies, even those that may not be publicly disclosed.