What are Medical Trials?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
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A medical trial, also called a clinical or drug trial, is a means of testing a drug or medical therapy for potential benefits and threats. Required by many government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States, medical trials allow researchers to understand the full effects and dangers of new medical inventions. Unlike trials and experiments held early in the development of the product, medical trials are performed on voluntary human participants after certain safety criteria are met.

Announcements regarding medical trials are frequently available in magazines, medical journals, and periodicals like newspapers. Frequently, some pay is offered to participants who qualify for the study. Travel time, expenses and any medical exams or care may also be covered by the company conducting the trial. In return, participants are expected to submit themselves are research cases to the clinical trial. They may be asked to take a certain drug, undergo exams and possible therapies, and keep a journal or report any information relative to the test.

Medical trials typically search for healthy adults, but some may need subjects who have a particular disease or medical conditions. Children, the elderly, and pregnant women are often excluded from medical trials because of the unpredictability of their immune systems. Some trials may seek participants of a certain age, race, or body type for specific research.


There is some risk associated with participating in any medical trial. While any drugs reaching the level of clinical trials have been thoroughly tested on cells and possibly animals, understanding their affect on humans is typically the goal of the study. Drug studies may require participants to take doses of a new drug, which may cause adverse reactions or have side effects. Read all material carefully regarding possible side effects and allergy indicators before agreeing to take part in a medical trial.

Medical trials are meant to be conducted under strict scientific standards in order to provide accurate, fact-based information. Some may include the use of a placebo group in which participants are being given a fake pill instead of real treatment. In a double-blind study, neither the participating researchers nor the patients know who is getting a placebo and who is getting real treatment. Techniques such as double-blind studies help give objective results, helping to guarantee the scientific accuracy of the testing process.

The size of a medical trial depends on how far along the tested product is in the certification process. Early trials meant to test the safety of the product may contain only 20 or 30 people. Later trials, used to determine the effectiveness of the product in diverse groups, may contain thousands of volunteers. As a rule, trials become larger the closer a drug or treatment comes to getting certified for public consumption.

Medical trials are not without critics, even with numerous scientific safeguards in place. Some suggest that trial advertising is aimed heavily toward impoverished groups, making the poor “guinea pigs” for medical research. Other critics claim that drug companies employ massive marketing firms to hide negative results and only present positive information to the public. Yet despite criticism, medical trials are considered by many experts to be a deeply vital part of the scientific advance of medicine. By conducting extensive trials with volunteers, safe drugs can be quickly released to the public, while unsafe treatments or medicines can be quickly weeded out.



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