Aids Health Foundation

What Are Clinical Trials?

Aids Health Foundation

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Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce the best data available for health care decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is research, so the studies follow strict scientific standards. These standards protect patients and help produce reliable study results.

Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. This shows how the approach affects a living body and whether it’s harmful. However, an approach that works well in the lab or animals doesn’t always work well in people. Thus, research in humans is needed.

For safety purposes, clinical trials start with small groups of patients to find out whether a new approach causes any harm. In later phases of clinical trials, researchers learn more about the new approach’s risks and benefits.

A clinical trial may find that a new strategy, treatment, or device

  • improves patient outcomes;
  • offers no benefit; or
  • causes unexpected harm

All of these results are important because they advance medical knowledge and help improve patient care.

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About The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., is Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Gary H. Gibbons, M.D., is Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) provides global leadership for a research, training, and education program to promote the prevention and treatment of heart, lung, and blood diseases and enhance the health of all individuals so that they can live longer and more fulfilling lives.

The NHLBI stimulates basic discoveries about the causes of disease, enables the translation of basic discoveries into clinical practice, fosters training and mentoring of emerging scientists and physicians, and communicates research advances to the public. It creates and supports a robust, collaborative research infrastructure in partnership with private and public organizations, including academic institutions, industry, and other government agencies. The Institute collaborates with patients, families, health care professionals, scientists, professional societies, patient advocacy groups, community organizations, and the media to promote the application of research results and leverage resources to address public health needs. The NHLBI also collaborates with international organizations to help reduce the burden of heart, lung, and blood diseases worldwide.

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