FAQ: Ask Before You Volunteer

The best study participants are those who are fully informed. When you meet with the research coordinator or doctor, take these questions with you. We’ve provided some answers here.



Why should I participate in a clinical trial?

You can play an active role in your own healthcare, gain access to new research treatments before they’re widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research.

What’s a protocol?

It’s a study plan for the clinical trial. It’s designed to safeguard your health and answer specific research questions. It describes the type of people who may participate, the schedule, procedures, medications and dosages, and the length of the study. By following a protocol, the research staff monitors your health and determines the safety and effectiveness of your treatment.

What’s a control or control group?

The standard that experimental observations measure against is called the “control.” In many clinical trials, one group of participants will be given an experimental drug or treatment for their illness. Their health outcome is compared to the “control group” which gets either a placebo or standard treatment.

What are the risks?

There’s always the risk that the treatment under study doesn’t work for you. And, there’s also a possibility of unpleasant, serious or even life-threatening side effects of treatment. The study may also require more traveling, treatments, hospital stays or complex dosage requirements than you can commit to. It’s important to understand and consider the risks before you decide to participate.

How is my safety protected?

Ethical and legal codes govern clinical trials. Most research is federally regulated with built-in safeguards to protect you. The researchers follow a controlled protocol. As a clinical trial progresses, researchers report the results at scientific meetings, to medical journals, and to various government agencies. Your name remains confidential.

Can I leave a trial after it has begun?

Yes. You can leave a clinical trial at any time. Tell the research team you’re leaving and your reasons for doing so.