Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about clinical trials so you and your family can make the most informed decision.

For more information on clinical trials at Emory, please visit the About section or the Resources section of this website. To search for clinical trials, visit the Home page.

For more information on clinical trials at Emory Healthcare, please ask your Emory physician or call the Emory HealthConnection℠ at 404-778-7777.

Clinical Trials Overview

A clinical trial is a form of research that uses human volunteers (called participants) to help answer specific questions about new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases. Clinical trials are extremely important because they allow researchers to work with patients suffering from the exact condition they are trying to treat.
There are several forms of clinical trials. Some trials test new drugs, procedures or other treatments, and others look for better ways to prevent diseases in people who have either never had a disease or are trying to keep one from coming back. Diagnostic trials are used to develop better ways to diagnose a particular disease or condition; screening trials help identify the best way to detect certain health conditions. Other trials help find ways to improve the care and quality of life of people with long-term illnesses and diseases.
Clinical trials take place in “phases,” and each phase helps researchers answer specific questions.

Phase I: These trials are used to test brand new drugs, devices or procedures to find out how safe they are and identify possible side effects. They usually involve 20 to 80 people.

Phase II: These trials are used to further evaluate the effectiveness and safety of a drug, device or procedure. The researchers keep track of any medical benefits, as well as side effects. They usually involve 100 to 300 people.

Phase III: These trials compare a new treatment or procedure to existing treatments to figure out which works best. Evaluation of side effects and effectiveness continues. They usually involve 1,000 to 8,000 people.

Phase IV: Once a drug or procedure is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and made available to the public, researchers continue to study its safety to figure out the best use of the new treatment.

Both people in good health and people with certain diseases or conditions participate in clinical trials. They do this to help researchers find better treatments. People may also participate to receive care or treatment only available as part of a clinical trial.
Clinical research helps us learn about the safety and effectiveness of all drugs, procedures and other treatments. Medical advances like new drugs and surgical procedures are made possible because of clinical trials and the voluntary participation of individuals.

Consider Participating

It is important to understand that all medical research involves some amount of risk. Since risks and benefits are different for each clinical trial, make sure you talk to members of the research team before making a decision. They can tell you about the known risks and benefits of the trial, as well as other available treatment options to help you and your loved ones decide whether or not to participate.
If you suffer from a health condition, have a personal interest in research or simply would like to improve the care of patients in the future, participating in clinical trials may be for you. Keep in mind that participation is voluntary, so if you change your mind at any point during the study, you have the right to stop participating. Just make sure to talk to your doctor first. If you are taking a study drug, learn how to go off the study drug safely (not suddenly).
All clinical trials include guidelines about who can participate, called eligibility criteria. It is best to talk with your doctor before enrolling in a clinical trial. He or she can help figure out whether or not you are eligible to participate. In addition to the specific disease or condition, other guidelines may include age, gender, previous treatments, and other known medical conditions or family medical history.

Make an Informed Decision

The National Institutes of Health provides a list of questions a person should ask when considering taking part in clinical trials. You can find this list by visiting NIH. While there may be benefits to participating in clinical trials, there can also be risks, so it is important to talk with a physician before deciding to participate.
There are several websites that provide information about clinical trials, including: