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Research that includes humans is clinical research. Clinical research helps researchers understand how best to treat patients or helps them learn more about a particular condition or disease. There are many different forms of clinical research. One common form is a clinical trial. In a clinical trial, researchers test new drugs, medical devices or treatments.
Clinical trials may seek to discover new drugs, new ways of giving patients approved drugs, new combinations of approved drugs, new surgical techniques, devices, or biological products. Clinical trials are also conducted to test cutting-edge and novel therapies, like studies that involve gene therapy or gene transfer.
Clinical trials must be conducted before a new drug, biologic, or device may be marketed in the United States. The FDA regulates clinical trials. The FDA gives investigators permission to test a new drug, biologic or device under strict regulatory conditions.
Clinical trials test new drugs, devices, or treatments. In some cases, taking part will not cost you or your insurance company anything. In other studies, the research team may bill your insurance company for drugs, devices, and services they provide. It is possible that your insurance company will not pay for some or all of the charges and you may receive a bill for those costs. The study informed consent form will describe any costs to you in detail. If the information in the consent form is not clear, you should ask the research team to explain any costs before you sign the consent form.
A protocol describes the rules to follow during the research. For example, a protocol states why it is important to study the research question and how the research team will answer the research question. A protocol also states how the research team will protect the health and well being of the research volunteers. A protocol includes information on the study procedures, medications to be used, possible risks and benefits, possible adverse events, and data analysis methods.
Physicians, nurses, sponsors, auditors, statisticians, and federal and non-federal regulatory bodies carefully monitor the actual conduct and safety of protocols. This means that different groups are reviewing the safety and progress of each protocol on a regular basis. If any of these groups determine that there is a concern with how the study is conducted, the study will stop.
Each research study is different. Each study tries to find answers to a specific question. Researchers must follow strict rules to decide who may take part in research. Not everyone with the disease or problem that is being studied can take part in a research study. If your doctor thinks that you might qualify for a study, he or she may ask if you want to take part. Many patients also look for research studies on their own through websites or support groups.
Informed consent is the process that gives information to people who are thinking about taking part in research. After learning about the research, you should understand:
Informed consent is a process that helps you learn about the research study. After learning about the study, you will be able to ask the researcher or his/her staff questions. You should only agree to take part after you clearly understand the study and feel comfortable. You should take time to talk over your decision with your doctors, family, and friends. If you agree to take part, you will be asked to sign an “informed consent form.” The informed consent process goes on even after you are taking part in the study. If researchers learn new information after you begin the study, they must share this with you.
Research at Neuro Pain Medical Center includes children as well as adults. The law states that children cannot make their own decision about research. We, however, feel it is important that children but receive an explanation of the research and have a chance to ask questions. If your child’s doctor tells you that your son/daughter must “assent” to participate, it is because we respect his/her rights as a person. “Assent” refers to the process by which we ask a child’s agreement to participate. In most cases, investigators will obtain a child’s assent if he or she is over the age of 7. It is important that the information shared with your child be understandable. The researcher will consider your child’s age and maturity level when presenting information. Doctors and parents need to work together to help the child understand what a study involves.
Adults who cannot legally make decisions for themselves may also agree to participate through an assent process. Researchers must also obtain the consent of an individual who represents such. Investigators want to make sure that the person whose mental abilities are impaired has some understanding of what will happen to him/her and can say no if he/she so chooses.
Sometimes assent is not required. In situations where the research may be the only way to help a patient with a life-threatening illnesses, assent is not required if the research is expected to be beneficial to the individual. Even so, researchers are encouraged to discuss the research with the individual patient.
You also have the responsibility to stay informed during your participation in a study. You should ask questions about anything you do not understand or simply want to know.
You may consider taking part in a study because:
You might consider not taking part in a study because:
When deciding whether or not to participate, you should ask the following questions and you should feel comfortable with the answers:
At the end of a study, the researchers analyze the data that were collected from all participants throughout the study. Findings and data collected about you will be compared to other participants. In clinical trials, doctors and specialists in biostatistics would conduct the analysis and report the findings to scientific meetings and medical journals. Data will also be shared with experts and various government agencies responsible for the approval of new drugs, biologics and devices. Not all experimental treatments receive final FDA approval in the end.
What happens when the study is over also varies from study to study. Sometimes patients can remain on the study drug if they are responding to the new treatment; however, this is the exception rather than the rule. Generally, participation ends when the study ends because it might not be safe or effective to continue treatment based on what is known at the time. Clinical trial participants can withdraw from the study at any time without jeopardizing the rest of their standard medical care.