Clinical trials can make or break decades of research, but they can also be incredibly dangerous

Cosmos Magazine


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How do clinical trials work? Jacinta Bowler tackles this question at Cosmos Weekly.

In the medical and biological space, there’s no better scientific evidence than a successful clinical trial.

The process can make or break decades of research, allow medicine to be brought to market, but if something goes wrong, can be incredibly dangerous.

Clinical trials are a research study which looks at a new drug, treatment or intervention in human participants. These trials occur in three stages – phase I, II, and III.

Phase I is usually done in a small group of less than 100 healthy people to test the safety and any side effects. Phase II looks at a larger group to see if the drug or product actually works, and phase III involves up to several thousand people, to test if it’s better than standard treatment.

That’s the simple explanation, but behind the scenes, there are whole teams of scientists ensuring that the participants doing the trial are safe, and that the trial is designed in the best way possible.

“If you haven’t collected the right data – no matter what you want to do – there’s no amount of fixing it. It can get very costly if you do it at the endpoint, or you might not be able to answer [the question you were asking].”

–Associate Professor Patty Chondros

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