Clinical trials are just one of the many ways that the public can participate in research. They answer our health questions and find the answers to today’s most pressing diseases and conditions. But you don’t have to be sick to participate: healthy volunteers are just as important to clinical trials as people with medical conditions.
How do clinical trials work?
There are four phases of clinical trials that aim to answer different questions. A new medication or therapy can’t move on to the next phase unless it gets positive results.
Is It Safe?
Phase one trials use small groups of healthy people to make sure the treatment is safe, identify the best dosage, and record any side effects.
Is It Effective?
Phase two trials involve a larger sample size (usually hundreds of people with a certain medical condition) and determine if the medicine works as well as it should.
Is It Better?
Phase three trials monitor thousands of subjects with a certain medical condition to see if a treatment is safe long-term and compare it with existing medicines or placebos.
Is It Safe Long Term?
Phase four trials test a large group of subjects to test how the treatment works over time and decide if it should replace existing treatments.
Who can participate in clinical trials?
Anyone can participate in a clinical trial, whether they’re healthy or not. Healthy volunteers are an important part of Phase 1 studies and can be control subjects in comparative treatments. People with medical conditions are, of course, a great help in studying new treatments for those conditions.
Are They Safe?
While there are risks in any medical procedure, clinical trials are designed to protect participants. Each trial goes through a strict safety process and is run according to a set of rules that have to be approved by an ethics board before the trial can start. Participants are closely monitored during the trial. If they no longer want to participate, they can withdraw at any time for any reason. Participants' personal information is also kept private during and after the trial.
Participants are educated about the trial and any risks before they enroll. They aren't asked to participate unless their doctor or specialist feels it's a good idea. Time commitment can vary depending on the type of study: some trials need participants to be available for regular appointments, while some only need occasional drop-ins. If time is a problem, there are many other ways to participate or be involved with clinical research.
Why Should I Participate?
Every trial provides new information about treating conditions and providing better medical care. Some even give you access to newer, more effective treatments before anyone else. Find out how your health care system works, how we can create better medicine, how you can change your own health, and how you can help others in Alberta, throughout Canada, and around the world.