How to participate in a clinical trial

By Kimberly Nelson

What are clinical trials? Why are they so important? And most importantly, how and why should you participate in one?

What are clinical trials?

Clinical research is medical research that uses people to test new drugs, medical procedures, etc. There are two types of research – observational and clinical trials.

Observational studies observe people reacting to certain things in normal settings. For instance, researchers may study adolescents using questionnaires, medical exams or cognitive tests to determine how depression affects teenagers.

Clinical trials are studies that are used to determine how a medical, surgical or behavioral intervention affects people. Researchers use clinical trials to learn if things like new medical treatments, drugs or surgeries are safe and effective for people.

Before researchers can begin their study of people in a clinical trial, the trial has to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Scientists must show the FDA that a treatment or drug has been tested and shown favorable results in animal studies before a clinical trial can be performed using people.

There are four phases of a clinical trial. Each phase introduces the new medical procedure, drug or behavioral intervention to more people. After the third phase, if the new drug or intervention is deemed to be safe, then the FDA will approve it for clinical use.

Why should you participate in a clinical trial?

Clinical trials offer a lot of benefits for participants. Sometimes it allows those who are seeking a treatment to an illness or disease they may have to try out new drugs or therapies that could help treat their medical issues. People also participate in clinical studies because they want to help researchers develop cures and treatments for health issues that affect others.

Whatever the reason, when you participate in a clinical study you could aid researchers in their quest to find cures and treatments for some of the toughest diseases and illnesses in the world. Plus, you’ll help contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge.

Where can you find a clinical trial?

Clinical trials can be conducted by many organizations including:

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Hospitals
  • Universities
  • Clinics
  • Federally funded research sites
  • Federal agencies like the National Institute of Health

Before you participate in a clinical trial, make sure to do your research. Ask your health care provider if they think the study would be safe for you given your medical history. Also, be sure you understand:

  • What will happen during the study
  • How long the study will last
  • If the new drug, treatment or medical intervention being tested will have any possible side effects, or how it could possibly affect your health
  • If there are any costs with enrolling in the trial

Also, before the study begins, make sure you read and sign the informed consent which is required for all clinical studies to provide to you by the government. It will outline your rights as a participant as well details about the study.

More Resources

If you’re interested in participating in a clinical study, here are some resources you can check out to see what clinical trials are available.




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