A clinical trial involves research using human volunteers to receive specific interventions according to the research plan or protocol created by the investigators. These interventions may be medical products, such as drugs, devices, or procedures. Clinical trials may compare a new medical approach to a standard one that is already available or to a placebo that contains no active ingredients or to no intervention. Some clinical trials compare interventions that are already available to each other. The investigators try to determine the safety and efficacy of the intervention by measuring certain outcomes in the participants. For example, investigators may give a drug or treatment to participants who have high blood pressure to see whether their blood pressure decreases, or they may observe a group of older adults to learn more about the effects of different lifestyles on cardiac health.
Every clinical trial is led by a principal investigator, often a medical doctor or research team. Clinical studies can be sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, academic medical centers, voluntary groups, and other organizations, in addition to Federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. Clinical studies can take place in many locations, including hospitals, universities, doctors' offices, and community clinics. The location depends on who is conducting the study. linical studies are designed to add to medical knowledge related to the treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of diseases or conditions.
Participation in Clinical Trials
Clinical studies have standards outlining who can participate, called eligibility criteria, which are listed in the protocol. Some research studies seek participants who have the illnesses or conditions that will be studied. Other studies are looking for healthy participants. And some studies are limited to a predetermined group of people who are asked by researchers to enroll. The factors that allow someone to participate in a clinical trial are called inclusion criteria, and the factors that disqualify someone from participating are called exclusion criteria. These are based on things such as age, gender, the type and stage of a disease, previous treatment history, and other medical conditions.
Participating in a clinical trial contributes to medical knowledge. The results of these studies can make a difference in the care of future patients by providing information about the benefits and risks of therapeutic, preventative, or diagnostic products or interventions. Clinical trials may provide the basis for the development of new drugs, biological products, and medical devices. Sometimes, the safety and the effectiveness of the experimental approach or use may not be fully known at the time of the trial. Various Federal agencies, including the Office of Human Subjects Research Protection (OHRP) and FDA, have the authority to determine whether sponsors of certain clinical studies are adequately protecting research participants.
Clinical Trial Safety and Review
Institutional review boards. Each federally supported or conducted clinical trial and each study of a drug, biological product, or medical device regulated by FDA must be reviewed, approved, and monitored by an institutional review board. An IRB is made up of physicians, researchers, and members of the community. Its role is to make sure that the study is ethical and the rights and welfare of participants are protected. This includes making sure that research risks are minimized and are reasonable in relation to any potential benefits, among other things. The IRB also reviews the informed consent document. In addition to being monitored by an institutional review board, some clinical studies are also monitored by data monitoring committees, also called data safety and monitoring boards.
Some trials may provide participants with the prospect of receiving direct medical benefits, while others do not. Most trials involve some risk of harm or injury to the participant, although it may not be more than the risks related to routine medical care or disease progression. Many trials require participants to undergo additional procedures, tests, and assessments based on the study protocol. These will be described in the informed consent document for a particular trial. A potential participant should also discuss these issues with members of the research team and with his or her usual health care provider. In general, a person must sign an informed consent document before entering a study to show that he or she was given information on risks, potential benefits, and alternatives and understands it. Signing the document and providing consent is not a contract. Participants may withdraw from a study at any time, even if the study is not over.