Volunteers and Families
Understanding Clinical Trials
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 participate. Some studies need volunteers with a certain disease. Some need healthy people. Others want just men or just women.
In the United States, an independent committee of physicians, statisticians and members of the community must approve and monitor the protocol. They make sure that the risks are small and are worth the potential benefits.*
Making the Choice
Choosing to participate in a clinical trial is an important personal decision. This page offers information to help you to choose if participation in a clinical trial is right for you. In addition to the information provided here we encourage you to speak with your primary care physician and your family.
Spanish Brochure / Folleto en español
¿Qué es una Investigación medica o clínica? Guía para los que deciden participar en esta Investigación
Medline Plus: Clinical Trials
Food and Drug Administration
Provides information for individual considering participating in a clinical trial
*Courtesy of the National Institutes of Health
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