The 9 Main Purposes Of Clinical Trials And What They Mean For Your Health
If you follow our blog you know that we like to clear confusion about clinical trials and we even have a series of posts dedicated to increasing awareness about what clinical trials are, how they work and what all of these terms like ‘placebo’, ‘blinded’, ‘randomization’ and so on mean. We not only aim to raise awareness, however, as one of our main goals is helping people make informed decisions about their health.
You might be considering joining a clinical trial but in the chaos of medical jargon and checkboxes you got confused – what is the right clinical trial for you and how can you choose the best option?
FindMeCure wants to make this process as easier for you as it can be. We already talked extensively about what the types of treatment listed on our search page consist of and what to expect choosing each one. Now, we’d like to clarify the different purposes for conducting a trial as treatment is not always the main goal, even if it’s the one most talked about. Speaking of which…
Treatment is the first item in the checkboxes list when you’re searching for a clinical trial on FindMeCure and it’s the most common reason people decide to participate in clinical trials. What treatment trials do is provide patients with a drug (or a device, or a procedure) to assess its effectiveness in either relieving the patients’ symptoms or reversing the course of the disease altogether.
When the primary purpose of the trial is treatment, researchers are only interested in the scientific part of drug-development to the extent to which it relates to improving the patients’ health and not as much in gaining a better understanding of the disease itself. That being said, we never know when and how the next breakthrough is going to happen so these are just some general guidelines about what to expect.
Observation or observational studies are studies in which a specific group of people is being observed over some previously agreed upon period of time in order for researchers to draw conclusions about their health or the progression of the disease they share.
For example, an observational study might be interested in the correlation between certain lifestyles or habits and the way a disease develops. Thus, one such study might assess how different socioeconomic backgrounds, places of residence and ways of living in, let’s say, people in their 40s might slow down or alternatively speed up the progression of a certain condition.
Prevention, on the other hand, relates to a type of clinical trials looking into ways to, instead of treating, prevent a disease altogether. The people who usually enter these clinical trials are healthy people who want to prevent a disease or lower the risk of developing it. Some of those people are motivated by personal stories of lost loved ones, others – by the high risk they have of developing a certain disease due to heredity.
And, of course, such studies might have specific requirements for participants, related to the purpose of prevention, like a certain family history or being a part of a certain age group or a group exposed to a number of environmental factors and so on.
Diagnostic clinical trials investigate better ways to diagnose a condition efficiently. Their importance is sometimes underestimated just like the importance of a timely diagnosis is. However, catching a disease early on can be a game-changer even for the scariest ailments as many of them can be cured or at the very least more successfully treated if diagnosed at an early stage of development.
Basic Science probably provokes the most questions. Such trials don’t aim at treating a disease, finding ways of preventing it or diagnosing it more easily and timely. At the same time basic medical research is what makes all other types of research possible.
What basic science does is look at phenomena, observe closely, gain understanding about them through experimenting with different hypotheses and finally draw conclusions that turn into guidelines for developing a new approach to things. What this means in practical terms is that basic science aims at providing better understanding about a disease or how a method of treatment works. And this new perspective eventually turns into new therapies.
Health Service Research deals with the more pragmatic side of healthcare. Researchers in this field are led by questions like “How do patients get access to healthcare services?”, “How much do these services cost?”, “What happens to the patients in result of the health policies now in place?” and so on.
This type of research is the result of the social sciences being employed for the needs of healthcare. It focuses on finding better ways to organise, finance and manage healthcare services and policies in order to bring patients the best quality care.
Supportive Care aims at dealing with symptoms and side effects resulting from treatment in such a way that the patient preserves their quality of live to the highest degree possible in their circumstances. Or, in other words, it’s a form of treatment addressing all complications – physical, social, psychological – that are the result of the disease and/or the way it’s treated.
Device Feasibility is a type of clinical study that enrolls a small group of participants in order to assess the design of a medical device in regards to its safety and functionality. It mainly focuses on the design concept and often results in certain modifications.
Screening trials can easily be confused with Diagnostic trials. They evaluate tests for detecting diseases before the symptoms appear and their main goal is determining whether these tests can save lives and what kinds of complications could result from them, or to put it another way – how safe they are. Pre-symptomatic being the key word here, this is what sets this type of trials apart – while diagnostic tests work with the symptoms present to find the most fitting answer at the earliest time possible, screening attempts to detect a disease before any symptoms are present.
Now, equipped with this knowledge you can check our database and search for a clinical trial for yourself or a loved one. Being informed about all of the categories you’ll have to choose from when selecting criteria is as important as having a general understanding of what a clinical trial is and what you can expect from it.