FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What are clinical trials?
A clinical trial is a research study to answer specific questions about new therapies, vaccines or new ways of using known treatments. Clinical trials (also called medical research and research studies) are used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective. Carefully conducted clinical trials are the fastest and safest way to find treatments that work in people.
Why participate in clinical trials?
Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own health care, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research.
Who can participate in a clinical trial?
All clinical trials have guidelines about who can participate. Using inclusion/exclusion criteria is an important principle of medical research that helps to produce reliable results. The factors that allow someone to participate in a clinical trial are called “inclusion criteria” and those that disallow someone from participating are called “exclusion criteria”. These criteria are based on such factors as age, gender, the type and stage of a disease, previous treatment history, and other medical conditions. Before joining a clinical trial, a participant must qualify for the study. Some research studies seek participants with illnesses or conditions to be studied in the clinical trial, while others need healthy participants. It is important to note that inclusion and exclusion criteria are not used to reject people personally. Instead, the criteria are used to identify appropriate participants and keep them safe. The criteria help ensure that researchers will be able to answer the questions they plan to study.
What happens during a clinical trial?
What kind of preparation should a potential participant make for the meeting with the research coordinator or doctor?
- Plan ahead and write down possible questions to ask.
- Ask a friend or relative to come along for support and to hear the responses to the questions.
- Bring a recording device to record the discussion to replay later.
What should people consider before participating in a trial?
People should know as much as possible about the clinical trial and feel comfortable asking the members of the health care team questions about it, the care expected while in a trial, and the cost of the trial. The following questions might be helpful for the participant to discuss with the health care team. Some of the answers to these questions are found in the informed consent document.
- What is the purpose of the study?
- Who is going to be in the study?
- Why do researchers believe the new treatment being tested may be effective?
- Has it been tested before?
- What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
- How do the possible risks, side effects, and benefits in the study compare with my current treatment?
- How might this trial affect my daily life?
- How long will the trial last?
- Who will pay for the treatment?
- Will I be reimbursed for other expenses?
- What type of long-term follow up care is part of this study?
- How will I know that the treatment is working?
- Will results of the trials be provided to me?
- Who will be in charge of my care?
Does a participant continue to work with a primary health care provider while in a trial?
What are side effects and adverse reactions?
Side effects are any undesired actions or effects of drug or treatment. Negative or adverse effects may include headache, nausea, skin irritation, or other physical problems. Experimental treatments must be evaluated for both immediate and long-term side effects.
What are the benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial?
Clinical trials that are well-designed and well-executed are the best treatment approach for eligible participants to:
- Play an active role in their own health care. Gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available.
- Obtain expert medical care at leading health care facilities during the trial.
- Help others by contributing to medical research.
- There are risks to participating in a clinical trial.
- There may be unpleasant, serious or even life-threatening side effects to treatment.
- The treatment may not be effective for the participant.
- The protocol may require more of their time and attention than would a non-protocol treatment, including trips to the study site, more treatments, or complex dosage requirements.
How is the safety of the participant protected?
Can a participant leave a clinical trial after it has begun?
Where do the ideas for trials come from?
Who sponsors clinical trials?
What is informed consent?
What is a protocol?
What is a placebo?
What is a control or control group?
What are Clinical Trial Phases?
Clinical trials are conducted in a series of steps, called phases – each phase is designed to answer a separate research question.
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.
The drug or treatment is given to a larger group of people to see if it is effective and to further evaluate its safety.
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.
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.