Virtually everyone has heard of clinical trials. You’re bombarded with advertisements quoting the success of drugs, therapies, devices, or techniques in clinical studies, yet many people don’t know what these trials entail, other than understanding that it’s a part of medical research.
Whether it’s to learn about new therapies or test new uses for existing ones, clinical trials are an essential part of the way that medical science moves forward.
While not every medical practice is intimately involved in clinical trials, many doctors continue with research in their fields of study even after they’ve finished their degree. Advances and updates in medicine mean that learning never truly ends. Being part of clinical studies is one way that physicians stay at the leading edge in their fields. Patients, too, can benefit directly from clinical studies.
The role of clinical studies
Evolving from the principles of the scientific method, clinical studies are, essentially, experiments. These experiments are carried out under controlled conditions, with external oversight to ensure the integrity of the knowledge gained as well as the safety of the clinical test patients.
A study starts with a careful design, beginning with a hypothesis. This could be testing a particular medication for treatment of a specific condition or disease, or evaluating the effectiveness of a new way to detect either. Just about anything that could have an impact on patient care and treatment could be subject to a clinical study.
Sponsors and oversight
When a clinical study is designed, a research plan is generated. Typically, this is done for a sponsor, often a government agency, medical center, or pharmaceutical or device manufacturer with an interest in the results of the study. The sponsor usually approves and funds the plan.
Before a clinical trial can begin, it also needs approval from an institutional review board. This is usually comprised of people chosen by the health care center that supervises or hosts the trial. The IRB is typically made up of both scientists and laypeople, as well as having some members who aren’t associated with the health care center.
Data and safety monitoring boards also review the study once it’s in progress.
How you can benefit from joining a clinical trial
Involvement in clinical trials is ideal for those who want to take an active role in their own health care. A study may catch your eye if you’ve been diagnosed with a condition under study, or if you haven’t yet found an effective treatment.
Even if you’re currently healthy, it’s a great way to learn about treatments that may affect others around you. Some studies take a specific look at how healthy patients respond.
As well as the benefits to health care and the community at large, some studies may reimburse you for your time or travel expenses. This usually varies widely between particular clinical trials and their sponsors.
The doctors at Premier Women’s Care frequently participate in clinical studies that focus on aspects of women’s health. To find out more about currently active studies that may be a fit for you, contact the office nearest you, or request an appointment using the online booking tool.