What is clinical research

Clinical research helps doctors and researchers find new and better ways to understand, detect, control and treat illness and other medical conditions.

Clinical research involves carefully planned studies that people volunteer to take part in. They help researchers learn more about health and find new medications and treatments. There are 2 main types of studies:

  • Interventional studies (also called clinical trials) test new medicines and treatments in people to see how well they work and to make sure they are safe.
  • Observational studies collect information about health and behavior. This is done through surveys, interviews or observing study participants over time.

What are the phases of a clinical trial?

Before a new medication or treatment can become a standard practice of care it must go through research phases.

Each research phase must:

  • Answer a research question
  • Meet safety rules before the next phase takes place
  • Meet phase goals before the next phase takes place

It is useful to know what phase the study is in to help you understand the goals of the research. A person from the research team will be able to tell you this information.

Phase 1

Researchers test a new medicine or treatment in a small group of people for the first time to see if it is safe, how it will be given and if there are side effects.

Phase 2

The medicine or treatment is given to a slightly larger group of people to study if it is effective and further study its safety. Sometimes side effects happen to only a few people. This is why testing on a larger number of people is important.

Phase 3

The medicine or treatment is given to large groups of people to confirm effectiveness and compare it to other already approved medicines or treatments.

Phase 4

After the medicine or treatment has been approved for use, often more research is done to look for effectiveness in various groups of people (for example, in patients age 12 and older) and to see if there are side effects associated with long-term use.