What Is The Purpose Of A Clinical Trial?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a “clinical trial is a type of research that studies tests and treatments, and evaluates their effects on human health outcomes”1 (Clinical trials, 2021). The purpose of a clinical trial is to find new or improved ways of treating, preventing, and diagnosing illnesses and evaluating whether new treatment options are safe and more or less effective than current available options. Each clinical trial will go through numerous phases ranging from pre-clinical development, to clinical trials (phases I-III), and patient engagement (phase IV).
What’s the Difference Between Interventional and Observational Studies?
In a clinical or interventional trial, human participants will receive specific interventions such as medical products, medications, devices, procedures, or diet changes in an effort to answer specific questions around:
- Studying one or more medical approaches for treating specific diseases, conditions, or syndromes.
- Finding new ways to prevent the initial development or recurrence of a disease or condition through medicines, vaccines, or lifestyle changes.
- Evaluating one or more medical approaches to identifying or diagnosing a particular disease.
- Examining risk factors for specific conditions.
- Exploring and measuring quality of life enhancements for chronic illness.
- To determine the efficacy of the intervention by measuring outcomes.
In an observational study, the health outcomes of participant groups are assessed, but participants are not assigned a specific intervention. An example of this would be researchers observing older adults with varying lifestyle factors to learn the impact these factors have on certain conditions like heart disease, strokes, or life expectancy.
Are There Different Types of Clinical Trials?
While the general purpose of a clinical trial is to answer specific questions about new therapies, medical treatments, diagnostic procedures, and devices, each clinical trial may have a different purpose depending on its type.
1. Preventive Clinical Trials.
This type of clinical trial looks to find new ways to prevent a disease altogether or the complications of diseases as they progress. In preventive clinical trials, those at high risk for developing a certain disease may participate or those who are motivated by family heredity for certain diseases. In these types of trials, certain age groups, family history, or environmental factors are often considered as criteria.
2. Screening Trials.
Also known as early detection trials, this type of trial will look for new ways to detect diseases before their symptoms appear. The main purpose or goal here is to determine whether earlier testing can save lives and how safe these tests are.
3. Diagnostic Trials.
Not to be confused with screening trials, diagnostic trials look for better, less invasive, and new ways to diagnose diseases after symptoms are present. The goal is to work with the symptoms to find the earliest possible detection time.
4. Treatment Trials.
This type of clinical trial is one that most individuals are familiar with, as these studies provide participants with medications or procedures to assess efficacy in relieving their condition’s symptoms or reversing the disease entirely. These studies also look at the outcome of procedures or medications that would provide better patient tolerance and fewer side effects.
5. Quality of Life Trials/Supportive Care.
This type of trial looks for new ways to provide better support for individuals who are suffering from chronic conditions. It aims at dealing with symptoms and side effects from treatments, as well as, all types of complications that come as a result of the disease (social, psychological, and physical).
6. Device Feasibility.
Often on the smaller side of clinical trials, its purpose is to assess medical devices with regard to its safety and functionality. It looks at the overall design concept and looks to improve on it with modifications.
What Happens when a Clinical Trial Finishes?
Once a clinical trial has ended, researchers will collect all data pertinent to the study and analyze it to determine which steps are next. If you are a participant in a clinical trial, you will be given the end date prior to the start of the trial, and if you are eligible to receive further treatment after the trial ends, you will be kept informed on the trial’s results.
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