We’ve all heard of clinical trials in the medical world. It’s the system of tests that every drug or medicine must go through before it hits the market. When a new medicine is rolled out on a wide-scale, we need assurance that it is effective. Most importantly, we need to know that it is safe for human consumption. With that in mind, every drug goes through various stages of testing, or clinical trials.
Of course, anyone can sign up to become part of a clinical trial. You’ll receive a payment for your participation, and you’ll help bring a new drug to the market. But, there is one thing you may not know. There are, in fact, many different phases of clinical trials. And clinical trials are never really finished. They continue for years after the drug is out there. So, let’s take a look at the 5 stages of clinical trials.
Phase 1: Exploration
Before the drug or medicine is even tested, researchers take the time to explore the potential effects. Does the medicine actually do what they thought it would do? Most of these tests take place in a laboratory, involving lots of complicated science! There may be one or two preliminary tests on humans in very small doses. Scientists are looking to confirm their initial thoughts and hypotheses.
Phase 2: Is it safe?
Phase two is the first time the drug is testing in full doses on human subjects. This stage of the clinical trial is probably what you imagine when you think of medical tests. Human subjects are invited into the hospital for a period of time, while doctors and scientists monitor their reaction. Trials recently took place to help combat the Ebola crisis of 2014, for example. As you would expect, there is a small element of risk in this early stage. For that reason, there are often high prices paid to test subjects.
Phase 3: Does it work?
Of course, the testing is for nothing if the new medicine doesn’t actually work. Stage three tests a real dosage in patients suffering from the condition. Doctors measure the effect of the drug in a real life situation. It’s the first inclination that the medicine could prove useful in the wider context of medicine. Most of these initial results are, of course, short-term results. However, it’s a good indication that the drug is a success.
Phase 4: Is it better than other alternatives?
Once scientists know that it’s safe, and that it works, they need to know if it’s worth bringing to market. If it’s less effective than existing treatments, it’s a pointless exercise. So, phase four is all about testing against existing drugs. A group of patients, with the same condition, will be subjected to a course of the new drug, and old drug, and a placebo. This test provides conclusive evidence as to the effectiveness of the new treatment.
Phase 5: Monitoring
As we said during the intro, clinical trials are never finished. Even after the drug goes to market, scientists continue to gather information about side-effects and effectiveness.
We hope we’ve shed some light on the topic of clinical trials. Have you ever been involved in a medical trial yourself? Please let us know your experience in the comment section.