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Consumer Health: Clinical Trials

This guide will provide general health resources for the consumer.

Clinical Trial Basics

Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Each study answers scientific questions and tries to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat a disease. Clinical trials may also compare a new treatment to a treatment that is already available.

Every clinical trial has a protocol, or action plan, for conducting the trial. The plan describes what will be done in the study, how it will be conducted, and why each part of the study is necessary. Each study has its own rules about who can take part. Some studies need volunteers with a certain disease. Some need healthy people. Others want just men or just women.

An Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews, monitors, and approves many clinical trials. It is an independent committee of physicians, statisticians, and members of the community. Its role is to

  • Make sure that the study is ethical
  • Protect the rights and welfare of the participants
  • Make sure that the risks are reasonable when compared to the potential benefits

In the United States, a clinical trial must have an IRB if it is studying a drug, biological product, or medical device that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates, or it is funded or carried out by the federal government.

NIH: National Institutes of Health

Phases of Clinical Trials

There are 4 Phases to a Clinical Trial Study:

  • Phase I: Researchers test a new drug or treatment in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects.

  • Phase II: The drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people to see if it is effective and to further evaluate its safety.

  • Phase III: The drug or treatment is given to large groups of people to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow the drug or treatment to be used safely.

  • Phase IV: Studies are done after the drug or treatment has been marketed to gather information on the drug's effect in various populations and any side effects associated with long-term use.

From the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine 

Clinical Trial Databaess

Children and Clinical Trials

It is very important for children to be involved in clinical studies as most of the medicines used on children have only been tested on adults.  Read about the importance of clinical studies for children and how the research can improve treatments and therapies for this specific population.

Clinical Trial Websites