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 take part. Some studies need volunteers with a certain disease. Some need healthy people. Others want just men or just women.
An Institutional Review Board (IRB) reviews, monitors, and approves many clinical trials. It is an independent committee of physicians, statisticians, and members of the community. Its role is to
- Make sure that the study is ethical
- Protect the rights and welfare of the participants
- Make sure that the risks are reasonable when compared to the potential benefits
In the United States, a clinical trial must have an IRB if it is studying a drug, biological product, or medical device that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates, or it is funded or carried out by the federal government.
NIH: National Institutes of Health
- Be a Partner in Clinical Research (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
- Clinical Trial Basics (National Institutes of Health)
- Clinical Trials (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
- Frequently Asked Questions about Clinical Research (National Human Genome Research Institute)
- NIH Clinical Research Trials and You (National Institutes of Health)
- Access to Investigational Drugs (National Cancer Institute)
- Are Clinical Studies for You? (National Institutes of Health, Clinical Center)
- Cancer Clinical Trials at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Clinical Trials - Participants (National Institute of Mental Health)
- Participating in Alzheimer's Disease Research (National Institute on Aging)
- Participating in Alzheimer's Research: Why Placebos Are Important (National Institute on Aging)
- Volunteer Stories (National Institutes of Health)
Statistics and Research
- National Institutes of Health Clinical Alerts and Advisories (National Library of Medicine)