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So you’ve seen a call for volunteers to take part in a clinical trial. This seems interesting to you and you fit the volunteer description, but what does it really mean to participate in a clinical trial?

What is a clinical trial?

A clinical trial describes a research study with human volunteers, called participants, that intend to discover new knowledge about prevention, diagnoses, and treatments of conditions and diseases. Clinical trials are used to test a drug, device, or lifestyle change by analyzing its impact, efficacy, and safety compared to a control group. Without clinical trials, many treatments, vaccines, and medical procedures that we consider well-known today would simply not exist.

What is my data used for in a clinical trial?

Researchers are using your data combined with the data of all participants in a trial to determine whether or not the experimental treatment, procedure, device, or lifestyle change has a positive impact on the outcomes of a disease. Obtaining these results is not an easy task, and some clinical trials may last years to rigorously study this impact. Without you and your data contributing to these trials, researchers may not be able to find the answers.

Is it safe to participate in a clinical trial?

Research is a step into the unknown with the intent to understand something new, and that step may involve certain risks. These risks can range from trivial to profound and can include any physical, psychological, social, or economic factors that may directly result from participation in a trial. To ensure that the risks of a trial do not outweigh the possible benefits, all clinical trials must be approved by a Research Ethics Board (REB). The REB is responsible for reviewing and monitoring trials with the safety, privacy, and dignity of research participants in mind, and ensuring that they follow guidelines from the Canadian Panel on Research Ethics.

Before you are able to participate, researchers must seek your informed consent to ensure that you are aware of what will be asked of you. This information will help you make an informed decision as to whether or not you would like to participate.

  • Ask questions! The research team will always be able to tell you more about their trial and answer questions.
  • The monitoring Research Ethics Board can provide more information about your rights as a participant.
  • Research teams usually have a website that can provide more information about their research and ongoing trials. If a study interests you but you are not eligible for it, the team may have a different study in which you could participate.

If you are interested in learning more about clinical trials, you can visit the following links or reach out to us directly at These resources were used to obtain the information in this article.

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