9/13/2017 by Share Your Story

A Patient’s Guide to Understanding Clinical Trials


What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies that investigate how effective a medical treatment or device is for treating a condition.

Clinical trials show us what works in medicine and healthcare. These studies are required in the pathway to develop any new treatments for diseases. Every medication currently available was once available only in a clinical trial.

What kinds of trials are there?

Observational Trials:

  • Allow researchers to follow a patient’s health to learn more about a condition.
  • Patients generally continue their current treatment.
  • An example of an observational trial would be a patient tracking their symptoms daily in a journal.

Interventional Trials:

  • These test new treatments or devices, or new ways of using existing treatments.
  • Interventional trials offer patients the opportunity to access treatments not yet available through standard care.

What do the phases mean?

Clinical Trials Explained

Common misconceptions about clinical trials

  • How placebos are used: While some trials do use a placebo, in an interventional trial, often times patients are either given the new treatment or the current standard of care. Either way, the research team will always fully inform you how the study works ahead of time.
  • All trials test newly developed treatments: Not all trials test brand new treatments. Some trials are observational and simply work to collect information to inform research down the line. Other trials may test treatments that have already been FDA approved for another condition, but are looking to be approved in additional diseases.
  • Only drugs are tested in trials: Clinical trials don’t just test drugs. They test devices such as insulin pumps or health trackers as well.

Why should myself or my loved one consider participating in a trial?

  • Be empowered with knowledge: It’s important to empower yourself with knowledge of all the treatment options at your disposal. Clinical trials can offer access to cutting edge therapies to treat your condition.
  • Exhausted treatment options: If you have tried and failed approved treatment options, clinical trials can be great next step to consider.
  • Be a hero: Patients and healthy participants that participate in trials are not only potentially helping themselves, but also may be helping to save the lives of those who will be diagnosed in the future.

How do I find the right trial for me or my loved ones?

Our partner Clara Health provides patients and caregivers with personalized navigation through every step of the trial process. Sign up now to be matched with the best treatment options for you. Clara is always free to use, and maintains a record of every trial in the United States or being run by a US based company.

Want to know more about clinical trials?

Clara has also developed guides for everything that patients need to know about clinical trials. Confused about getting travel reimbursement? Wondering how to arrange for transit and lodging? Or just curious about what you need to know before calling a trial coordinator? Clara Guides cover all this and more.


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