Without clinical trials, we can’t determine whether new medical treatments and diagnostic tests are effective and safe. Researchers need to know what works and what doesn’t work in the human body and this can’t be learned in a laboratory or by testing animals.
Researchers do not know what the results of human testing will reveal. This can make it difficult for people to decide to take part in a clinical trial but many participants choose to participate because they know clinical trials are vital to the process of improving medical care.
The benefits of clinical trials
Most modern medical treatments are a direct result of clinical research. New treatments for all kinds of conditions and diseases – from cancer and heart disease to asthma and high blood pressure – have been developed. Clinical trials often result in new treatments that help people to live with less pain and disability or to live longer.
Clinical trials can help:
- diagnose conditions or diseases by testing blood samples.
- treat conditions or diseases by testing new medicines or procedures.
- find out how to improve quality of life by controlling symptoms.
Clinical trials can help health professionals to understand the side effects of new treatments and whether it is acceptable to use them when weighing these against potential benefits.
Where to find clinical trial information
There are a number of websites that give details of clinical trials, such as ClinicalTrials.gov, which is a database of privately and publically funded clinical studies across the world. It is possible to actively search for recruiting studies to participate in.
Participants in some clinical trials receive payment, such as those taking part in paid medical studies in South Florida.
Strict scientific standards
As the purpose of clinical trials is research, strict scientific standards help protect patients and produce reliable results.
Each clinical trial has a master plan or protocol explaining how it will work. Key information includes how many participants will take part, eligibility criteria, what tests patients will get and how often, what type of data will be collected and detailed information about the treatment plan.
Participants have to read and sign an informed consent form that presents the key facts before taking part in a clinical trial.
Comparison groups and randomization
To ensure that a treatment is effective and safe and not just a random effect for one person, there are various stages of trials. The first trials are done on small groups of people and trials grow progressively larger as effectiveness and safety are established.
Patients taking part in a trial are assigned to one of two (or more) groups. Each group then receives different medical treatments.
One group may get a new treatment and another group the current standard treatment for a disease or condition so that researchers can compare the results. If no standard treatment exists, people in one group may receive a placebo (an inactive pill that looks like the test product).
Randomization involves assigning patients to different groups by chance to ensure that differences observed in a trial are due to the different strategies and not to pre-existing differences between patients.
Benefits of participating in clinical trials
Taking part in a clinical trial can have a number of benefits, such as receiving access to a new treatment before it’s widely available. Participants have the support of a group of health care providers who monitor their health carefully.
Even participants who don’t directly benefit from the results of a clinical trial help to gather information that can assist others and add to scientific knowledge.