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More about Clinical Research and Clinical Trials

A "clinical trial or study" is a research study designed to find new and better ways to treat patients. Clinical trials may test new drugs, new approaches to existing treatments or newly developed methods of treatment. Clinical trials are usually conducted after many years of testing in research labs (bench/basic science research) and in animals (animal research) designed to identify possible benefits and side effects. The primary purposes of clinical trials are to determine the safety and effectiveness of a treatment.

Many studies use a placebo which is an inactive treatment, often referred to as a "sugar pill", although it may not be a pill but could be a liquid, injection or device. The placebo usually looks like the real treatment so that you and the research team are not aware if you are taking the real treatment or the inactive treatment. Placebos are important in research because it is often hard to tell if a treatment is better or safer than no treatment at all. In some studies participants will receive either the active treatment or the placebo. In other studies you might receive both the placebo and the active treatment at different times, usually without knowing which you are receiving, to see if you respond differently to one than the other.

If you are in a study and receive the placebo, you will receive the same attention and experience the same procedures and study requirements as participants who receive the active treatment. If at any time you experience side effects you believe are related to your participation in the study, even if you think you are receiving the placebo, you should notifiy the research staff. If you have questions or concerns about the study or you want to withdraw from the study, you should contact the research staff.

Most studies remain "blinded" so that neither you nor the research staff know whether you received the placebo or active treatment until the data are analyzed, sometimes months after the last participant completes participation. In some situations, you may be able to request to be notified with your treatment when the study analysis is completed, so that you will know whether you received the placebo or the active drug during your study participation.