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Clinical Trial vs. Treatment

Being aware of the dissimilarities between clinical trials and medical treatments is critical before deciding whether to participate in a clinical research study. Clinical trials adhere to a study protocol that pertains to all participants, regardless of whether it is beneficial to a certain patient. Conversely, medical treatments are provided by physicians and are designed around a patient’s specific needs. It is important to be able to identify and understand this inherent difference between these two types of medical care.

For the majority of the public who is unaware of the differences between medical treatment and clinical trials, the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, the fundamental differences between the two should be known. As a clinical trial participant, you are involved in an experiment that tests and develops new drugs for their safety and efficacy in human subjects. Since new drugs are unknown to be safe and/or effective before the study, the participant in the trial is an essential part of evaluating the value or benefits of the new drug.

Since these “experiments,” or clinical studies, for new treatments and drugs are not geared towards your condition or specific needs as a patient, they cannot be deemed medical treatments. The drug’s effectiveness has not yet been determined, therefore, cannot be regarded as a medical treatment. Likewise, you may be placed in the control group during a clinical trial, which means you do not receive the new drug or treatment at all. Rather, you would receive an existing treatment or placebo.

Bottom line, you are not guaranteed medical treatment when you participate in a clinical trial since you do not know which group you will be placed in, or if the drug is effective for the targeted condition. However, you will still receive quality care and do stand to gain any benefits the drug provides if you are in the group who receives the new treatment.

Most importantly, remember that clinical trials are designed for research, not to administer personal medical treatments. Be sure to know the differences between medical treatments and clinical trials so that you can make the most educated decision about the best medical care for your condition.

Common Questions:

What is a Clinical Research Trial?
Why Participate in a Clinical Research Trial?
How are New Drugs Tested?

Learn More About Clinical Trials:

What Types of Clinical Trials are Available?
Phase I Clinical Trials
Phase II Clinical Trials
Phase III Clinical Trials
Phase IV Clinical Trials
Glossary of Clinical Trial Terminology
Alabama Health Resources
Brief History of Clinical Trials
Find Clinical Trials

Know Your Rights as a Participant:

Your Patient Rights
Patient Privacy Rules
Informed Consent Agreement
NIH Patient Bill of Rights
Legal, Ethical, and Safety Issues