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General Overview of Clinical Trials

Posted 7/7/2017

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  I have written before about the potential benefits and possible risks of clinical trials. My focus has always been on cancer clinical trials, and it is worth remembering that the same process applies to virtually every part of medicine and surgery. You can search the archives of this blog for the more specific entries, but I think this general overview can be useful.

  From Harvard Women's Health Watch comes this article that reminds us of the goals of trials, the hope that an individual might be personally helped while adding to the knowledge that will help others in the future.

What clinical trials can do for you

Participating in a medical study may benefit your health and perhaps that of millions of others.

If you've ever considered donating your body to science—or granting science a temporary loan—now's the time to do it. Researchers are always recruiting patients for studies of new treatments and preventive strategies for diseases ranging from Alzheimer's to zoster (shingles). In the simplest terms, these studies compare existing approaches to newer ones in similar groups of people and determine which is more effective.

"Clinical trials are the vehicle by which we transfer things that we think into things that we know or don't know," says Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Drazen notes that the ways clinical trials are conducted are constantly being revised to yield better information and improve the experience for participants.

Two types of studies

There are two basic types of medical studies—randomized, controlled clinical trials (RCTs) and observational investigations.

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