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Research and clinical trials

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Introduction
Research and clinical trials are an everyday part of the work done in the NHS.
Types of research
Many different types of health research are going on at any one time.
How research answers what we don't know
There are many questions about health, illness and the effects of treatment for which there are no clear answers.
What are clinical trials?
A clinical trial is a particular type of clinical research that compares one treatment with another. It may involve patients or healthy people, or both.
Different stages of trials
All clinical trials of new medicines go through a series of phases to test whether the medicines are safe and whether they work.
About fair tests
Not only do unproven treatments need to be tested, but the tests also need to be fair.
Getting involved in health research
Research is not just for researchers. The public can be involved too. New research cannot lead to reliable findings unless the right patients agree to join in.
Joining a clinical trial
If you take part in a clinical trial, you may be one of the first people to benefit from a new treatment.
Finding out about the results
There may be a delay before the results of a clinical trial are known, particularly with larger trials.
Why all research should be registered
Some studies are never published because they have disappointing or negative results.
Systematic reviews and meta-analyses
On its own, a single piece of research can be misleading. Separate but similar small studies can produce apparently conflicting results, often due to chance.
How trials are regulated
People running clinical trials have legal obligations that are set out in the Medicines for Human Use (Clinical Trials) Regulations 2004.
Ethics committees
Every clinical trial is covered by regulations that protect the health, safety and dignity of the people taking part.
Review committees
Some longer clinical trials that produce a lot of information over a number of years have early warning systems to identify whether a trial should be stopped early.
When things go wrong
Medical research and clinical trials are carried out by health professionals whose training and everyday work is focused on the care of patients.
'I had the best possible treatment, I know I did'
When Sheila was diagnosed with breast cancer, her GP suggested she join a clinical trial for a new breast cancer drug.
'The nurse made sure I understood the risks'
When Kathleen Pemberton developed rheumatoid arthritis, she decided to take part in a clinical trial of a new treatment.
'I'm here because of women who took part in research'
Christine Gratus discovered she had breast cancer after attending routine NHS screening.
'I thought it might help me or someone else'
When Nigel Lewis-Baker was told he had advanced prostate cancer, it was too late for surgery or radiotherapy.
'I want people to find better medicines'
Georgia Semple, who had leukaemia, is now on the young people's advisory panel that works with the Medicines for Children Research Network (MCRN).
'I can control my Parkinson’s thanks to animal research'
Mike Robins has directly benefited from animal research.
'I'm lucky I found a trial that was so right for me'
Karen Ayres has an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis (MS). The severity of symptoms varies, but at their worst she was paralysed from the neck down.