What is a clinical trial?
Medical research studies involving people are called clinical trials.
A clinical trial is a carefully planned study, which attempts to answer a defined set of questions about a treatment.
Clinical trials tell us whether new drugs or treatments:
- are safe
- are effective
- have any side effects
- work better than currently used treatments
Any new treatment has to be thoroughly studied in people before it can be accepted as the standard treatment for an illness or disease.
Different types of trial
There are four different types of clinical trial, known as phases.
• Phase 1 trials look at the correct dose of a new drug to give and also whether a trial treatment is safe or has any harmful effects. Small numbers of people are used. These are sometimes healthy volunteers.
• Phase 2 trials are carried out in a larger number of people who have the illness being studied. They look at whether a treatment works and if it has any side effects.
If a treatment gets through these 2 phases it will go into phase 3 testing. Not all new treatments get this far.
• Phase 3 trials compare a new treatment to the current standard treatment- that is the treatment that all patients with that diagnosis will receive.
This will involve an even greater number of people participating in one particular study, so that researchers can be confident that the result didn't happen by chance.
If it gives better results, it may become the new standard treatment.
• Phase 4 trials are carried out after a drug has been licensed for use. Information will be collected about side effects, safety and the long term risks and benefits of a drug once it is in general use.
The end result
By carrying out medical research studies we can find out how best to prevent, diagnose and treat illness, which in turn leads to better patient care.
However, sometimes researchers discover that the treatment being tested does not work or that it has side effects that are much worse than with existing treatments.
Every study is monitored very carefully so that this can be picked up at the earliest opportunity and the trial will be stopped.
It is important that researchers and health care professionals know which treatments are effective and those which are not effective so that we can then provide our patients with the best health care possible.
What UKSRN adopted trials look at
Stroke Research Network trials look at:
- Preventing stroke by screening for individuals who might be more at risk of a stroke, or by treatment with drugs or vitamins
- Acute stroke by looking at new ways to treat patients in the days and weeks after their stroke
- Rehabilitation and Community themes by looking at ways in which stroke patients, and their carers, can achieve their maximum level of recovery, thereby living a more fulfilling life.
- Translational Studies