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A Guide to Clinical Trials for Arthritis Patients

A clinical trial is a research study conducted with patients to evaluate a new arthritis treatment, drug, or device. The purpose of clinical trials is to find new and improved methods of treating arthritis.

Arthritis Research Starts in the Laboratory

Clinical trials make it possible to apply the latest scientific and technological advances in arthritis to patient care.

During a clinical trial, doctors use the best available arthritis treatment as a standard to evaluate new treatments. The new treatments are considered to be at least as effective or possibly more effective than the standard.

New treatment options are first researched in a laboratory where they are carefully studied in the test tube and in animals. Only the treatments most likely to work are further evaluated in a small group of humans prior to applying them in a larger clinical trial.

When a new arthritis treatment is studied for the first time in humans, it is not known exactly how it will work. With any new treatment, there are possible risks as well as benefits. Clinical trials help doctors discover the answers to the following questions:

  • Is the treatment safe and effective?
  • Is the treatment potentially better than the treatments currently available?
  • What are the side effects of the treatment?
  • Does the treatment have any possible risks?
  • How well does the treatment work?

 

Phases of a Clinical Trial

Clinical trials are conducted in phases, each designed to find out specific information. Each new phase of a clinical trial builds on information from previous phases.

What Are the Different Phases of a Clinical Trial?

In a phase I clinical trial, the new arthritis treatment being investigated is given to a small number of participants. The researchers determine the best way to give the new treatment and how much of it can be given safely.

Phase II clinical trials determine the effect of the research treatment on patients and usually the best dosage.

Phase III clinical trials compare the new treatment with the standard arthritis treatment.

Phase IV clinical trials apply the new treatment to patient care. For example, a new drug that was found effective in a clinical trial may then be used together with other effective drugs in a select group of patients with arthritis.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Clinical Trials

The advantages of participating in a clinical trial include the following:

  • You may receive a new arthritis treatment before it is widely available to the public.
  • You can provide researchers with the information they need to continue developing new procedures and introducing new treatment methods.
  • Your arthritis treatment costs may be decreased, since many of the tests and doctor visits that are directly related to the clinical trial are paid for by the company or agency sponsoring the study. Be sure to discuss your treatment costs with the doctors and nurses conducting the clinical trial.

WebMD Medical Reference

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