Clinical research, as explained by the National Institutes of Health, is “research that either directly involves a particular person or group of people or uses materials from humans.” Clinical research is at the heart of any new advances in science and health. Medications, treatments and many services cannot move forward until there is scientific evidence of the benefits and potential adverse effects.
Within the broad scope of clinical research come such things as clinical trials, studies for various health-related functions such as interventions for diseases, better understanding of the mechanisms of disease, factors that affect health and health-related decisions and many other medical and behavioral factors.
Clinical research on humans follows first laboratory testing, then animal testing. These outcomes of this testing must show that there is a potential benefit to human health with a fair amount of safety against serious adverse reactions before human testing can begin. Researchers must prove to potential funding sources that these criteria have been met before any clinical human research can be instituted.
According to the NIH, all clinical trials in the United States must undergo review by an Institutional Review Board, which will also monitor the trial once it is underway. The IRB is a committee of independent professionals whose responsibility it is to make sure the suggested clinical trial is ethical and that the rights of all participants are protected.
Besides the medicine or treatment or surgical devices and procedures to be studied, the most important factor in clinical research are the volunteer participants. You might wonder why anyone would be interested in becoming a volunteer participant and the answers can be almost as varied as the people who do so: Some people are interested in advancing science, some participate because they have an illness or condition for which the research may find a treatment or cure and still others to satisfy a curiosity about the experience.
Whatever the reason, volunteer participants’ personal data remains confidential within the particular study in which they are participating. Each research study will have certain criteria that participants must meet, such as age or sex. Details of the study and potential risks are explained to participants prior to their agreement to participate in the form of informed consent.
Research studies are being conducted all the time. People interested in participating in clinical research can find available studies by going to ClinicalTrials.gov or ResearchMatch.