Understanding Clinical Trials

Clinical trials/studies are different types of research studies that involve patients or health people.

They aim to test whether different treatments are safe and how well they work.Clinical trials/studies are carried out to try to answer specific questions about health and illness.

Clinical trials/studies cover a broad range of different types of research for health interventions such as drugs, diagnostics, devices and therapy treatments. For example, trials are often used to test new medicines or interventions but can also be observational studies (no treatment/medicines involved) in which educational programmes designed to improve a person’s understanding of their medical condition and help them to manage it more effectively, or a psychological treatment, such as the use of cognitive behavioural therapy for the treatment of anxiety or depression.

They can also be used to test whether giving a treatment in a different way will make it more effective or reduce any side effects. Some trials/studies are designed to try out ways to prevent a particular disease in people who have never had the disease, or to prevent a disease from returning.

Clinical trials/studies allow safety and efficacy data to be collected and can take place only after satisfactory information has been gathered and ethics committee approval is granted in the country where the trial is taking place. In the UK, review by an ethics committee is only one of a series of safeguards intended to protect the people taking part in the clinical research.

Choosing to participate in a clinical trial is an important personal decision. It is often helpful to talk to a physician, family members, or friends about deciding to join a trial. After identifying some trial options, the next step is to contact the study research staff and ask questions about specific trials. Some clinical trials involve more tests and doctor visits than the participant would normally have for an illness or condition.

The clinical trial/study team includes doctors, nurses as well as social workers and other health care professionals. They check the health of the participant at the beginning of the trial, give specific instructions for participating in the trial, monitor the participant carefully during the trial, and stay in touch after the trial is completed.