What are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are research studies involving patients. They compare new treatments with old ones, or more often, new combinations of existing treatments, or a change in the way the existing treatment is given.
In clinical trials there are several terms used to describe the trial. Some of these terms are described here. They include:

  • Randomised trial
  • Blind trial
  • Placebo

If you take part in a Randomised trial you will be allocated a treatment usually by computer. Trials are conducted this way to ensure that there is an even spread of patients between the treatments. This ensures that there is no favouritism, for example, elderly people given one treatment. It helps to ensure that the results are only due to treatment and not a specific factor, for example age.

A Blind trial is when the patients and the Hospital staff are not aware which treatment the patient is receiving. Trials are blinded to make sure that neither the Patient nor the Hospital staff influence the reporting of side effects or results. Sometimes if a person feels very positive about a treatment, it may affect the results. Blinded trials avoid this. They ensure that the results are accurate and any side effects are purely due to treatment. You may also be offered a trial that involves a placebo.

A Placebo is a fake tablet, made of either sugar or salt. Placebo drugs are used in blind trials so that neither the patient nor staff knows which treatment they are receiving. Again this is to make sure that the
effects of the treatment are reported without preference or influence.