What is a clinical trial?

All our current treatments start out as investigational therapies. We rely on the results from clinical trials to bring these treatments to market. This is only possible with the help of patients who volunteer to take part in clinical trials. The more people in our clinical trials, the faster new treatments can become available to the community.

Clinical trials are medical studies that involve regular people like you and me. We use clinical trial results to develop new treatments, interventions, or tests to detect, treat or manage various diseases and medical conditions.

Some trials examine how people respond to a new treatment and identify possible side effects. This helps us determine how a new treatment works, whether it’s safe, and if it’s better than treatments already available.

Clinical trials might also compare existing treatments, test new ways to use or combine existing treatments, or observe how people respond to other factors that might affect their health (such as dietary changes).

Other trials look at ways to diagnose diseases earlier, or how to prevent the onset of particular diseases and medical conditions.

Any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes.

- The World Health Organization (WHO)

Clinical trial treatments

These include (but are not restricted to):

  • medications
  • medical devices
  • biopharmaceuticals (e.g. vaccines)
  • surgical and other medical treatments and procedures
  • psychotherapeutic and behavioural therapies
  • health service changes
  • preventive care strategies and
  • educational interventions

Treatments begin as ‘experimental’ and move to ‘standard’ along a clinical pathway that’s checked and regulated at every stage. In the early stages, the new treatment is tested in a small number of people to assess safety and effectiveness. If the results are promising, the treatment moves to later stages of testing where we collect more information on effectiveness and possible side effects by increasing the number of people in the clinical trial.

Further information on clinical trial participation

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