Clinical trials are experiments or observations done in clinical research. Such prospective biomedical or behavioral research studies on human participants are designed to answer specific questions about biomedical or behavioral interventions, including new treatments (such as novel vaccines, drugs, dietary choices, dietary supplements, and medical devices) and known interventions that warrant further study and comparison. Clinical trials generate data on safety and efficacy. They are conducted only after they have received health authority/ethics committee approval in the country where approval of the therapy is sought. These authorities are responsible for vetting the risk/benefit ratio of the trial – their approval does not mean that the therapy is 'safe' or effective, only that the trial may be conducted.
Depending on product type and development stage, investigators initially enroll volunteers or patients into small pilot studies, and subsequently conduct progressively larger scale comparative studies. Clinical trials can vary in size and cost, and they can involve a single research center or multiple centers, in one country or in multiple countries. Clinical study design aims to ensure the scientific validity and reproducibility of the results.
Costs for clinical trials can range into the billions of dollars per approved drug. The sponsor may be a governmental organization or a pharmaceutical, biotechnology or medical device company. Certain functions necessary to the trial, such as monitoring and lab work, may be managed by an outsourced partner, such as a contract research organization or a central laboratory.
Some clinical trials involve healthy subjects with no pre-existing medical conditions. Other clinical trials pertain to patients with specific health conditions who are willing to try an experimental treatment.
When participants are healthy volunteers who receive financial incentives, the goals are different than when the participants are sick. During dosing periods, study subjects typically remain under supervision for one to 40 nights.
Usually pilot experiments are conducted to gain insights for design of the clinical trial to follow.
There are two goals to testing medical treatments: to learn whether they work well enough, called "efficacy" or "effectiveness"; and to learn whether they are safe enough, called "safety". Neither is an absolute criterion; both safety and efficacy are evaluated relative to how the treatment is intended to be used, what other treatments are available, and the severity of the disease or condition. The benefits must outweigh the risks.:8 For example, many drugs to treat cancer have severe side effects that would not be acceptable for an over-the-counter pain medication, yet the cancer drugs have been approved since they are used under a physician's care, and are used for a life-threatening condition.
In the US, the elderly constitute 14% of the population, while they consume over one-third of drugs. People over 55 (or a similar cutoff age) are often excluded from trials because their greater health issues and drug use complicate data interpretation, and because they have different physiological capacity than younger people. Children and people with unrelated medical conditions are also frequently excluded. Pregnant women are often excluded due to potential risks to the fetus.
The sponsor designs the trial in coordination with a panel of expert clinical investigators, including what alternative or existing treatments to compare to the new drug and what type(s) of patients might benefit. If the sponsor cannot obtain enough test subjects at one location investigators at other locations are recruited to join the study.
During the trial, investigators recruit subjects with the predetermined characteristics, administer the treatment(s) and collect data on the subjects' health for a defined time period. Data include measurements such as vital signs, concentration of the study drug in the blood or tissues, changes to symptoms, and whether improvement or worsening of the condition targeted by the study drug occurs. The researchers send the data to the trial sponsor, who then analyzes the pooled data using statistical tests.
Examples of clinical trial goals include assessing the safety and relative effectiveness of a medication or device:
While most clinical trials test one alternative to the novel intervention, some expand to three or four and may include a placebo.
Except for small, single-location trials, the design and objectives are specified in a document called a clinical trial protocol. The protocol is the trial's "operating manual" and ensures that all researchers perform the trial in the same way on similar subjects and that the data is comparable across all subjects.
The most common clinical trials evaluate new pharmaceutical products, medical devices (such as a new catheter), biologics, psychological therapies, or other interventions. Clinical trials may be required before a national regulatory authority approves marketing of the innovation.
Similarly to drugs, manufacturers of medical devices in the United States are required to conduct clinical trials for premarket approval. Device trials may compare a new device to an established therapy, or may compare similar devices to each other. An example of the former in the field of vascular surgery is the Open versus Endovascular Repair (OVER trial) for the treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm, which compared the older open aortic repair technique to the newer endovascular aneurysm repair device. An example of the latter are clinical trials on mechanical devices used in the management of adult female urinary incontinence.
The concepts behind clinical trials are ancient. The Book of Daniel chapter 1, verses 12 through 15, for instance, describes a planned experiment with both baseline and follow-up observations of two groups who either partook of, or did not partake of, "the King's meat" over a trial period of ten days. Persian physician Avicenna, in The Canon of Medicine (1025) gave similar advice for determining the efficacy of medical drugs and substances.
Although early medical experimentation was often performed, the use of a control group to provide an accurate comparison for the demonstration of the intervention's efficacy, was generally lacking. For instance, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who campaigned for the introduction of inoculation (then called variolation) to prevent smallpox, arranged for seven prisoners who had been sentenced to death to undergo variolation in exchange for their life. Although they survived and did not contract smallpox, there was no control group to assess whether this result was due to the inoculation or some other factor. Similar experiments performed by Edward Jenner over his smallpox vaccine were equally conceptually flawed.
The first proper clinical trial was conducted by the physician James Lind. The disease scurvy, now known to be caused by a Vitamin C deficiency, would often have terrible effects on the welfare of the crew of long distance ocean voyages. In 1740, the catastrophic result of Anson's circumnavigation attracted much attention in Europe; out of 1900 men, 1400 had died, most of them allegedly from having contracted scurvy. John Woodall, an English military surgeon of the British East India Company, had recommended the consumption of citrus fruit (it has an antiscorbutic effect) from the 17th century, but their use did not become widespread.
Lind conducted the first systematic clinical trial in 1747. He included a dietary supplement of an acidic quality in the experiment after two months at sea, when the ship was already afflicted with scurvy. He divided twelve scorbutic sailors into six groups of two. They all received the same diet but, in addition, group one was given a quart of cider daily, group two twenty-five drops of elixir of vitriol (sulfuric acid), group three six spoonfuls of vinegar, group four half a pint of seawater, group five received two oranges and one lemon, and the last group a spicy paste plus a drink of barley water. The treatment of group five stopped after six days when they ran out of fruit, but by that time one sailor was fit for duty while the other had almost recovered. Apart from that, only group one also showed some effect of its treatment.
After 1750, the discipline began to take its modern shape. John Haygarth demonstrated the importance of a control group for the correct identification of the placebo effect in his celebrated study of the ineffective remedy called Perkin's tractors. Further work in that direction was carried out by the eminent physician Sir William Gull, 1st Baronet in the 1860s.
Frederick Akbar Mahomed (d. 1884), who worked at Guy's Hospital in London, made substantial contributions to the process of clinical trials, where "he separated chronic nephritis with secondary hypertension from what we now term essential hypertension. He also founded the Collective Investigation Record for the British Medical Association; this organization collected data from physicians practicing outside the hospital setting and was the precursor of modern collaborative clinical trials."
Sir Ronald A. Fisher, while working for the Rothamsted experimental station in the field of agriculture, developed his Principles of experimental design in the 1920s as an accurate methodology for the proper design of experiments. Among his major ideas, was the importance of randomization – the random assignment of individuals to different groups for the experiment; replication – to reduce uncertainty, measurements should be repeated and experiments replicated to identify sources of variation; blocking – to arrange experimental units into groups of units that are similar to each other, and thus reducing irrelevant sources of variation; use of factorial experiments – efficient at evaluating the effects and possible interactions of several independent factors.
The British Medical Research Council officially recognized the importance of clinical trials from the 1930s. The Council established the Therapeutic Trials Committee to advise and assist in the arrangement of properly controlled clinical trials on new products that seem likely on experimental grounds to have value in the treatment of disease.
The first randomised curative trial was carried out at the MRC Tuberculosis Research Unit by Sir Geoffrey Marshall (1887–1982). The trial, carried out between 1946–1947, aimed to test the efficacy of the chemical streptomycin for curing pulmonary tuberculosis. The trial was both double-blind and placebo-controlled.
The methodology of clinical trials was further developed by Sir Austin Bradford Hill, who had been involved in the streptomycin trials. From the 1920s, Hill applied statistics to medicine, attending the lectures of renowned mathematician Karl Pearson, among others. He became famous for a landmark study carried out in collaboration with Richard Doll on the correlation between smoking and lung cancer. They carried out a case-control study in 1950, which compared lung cancer patients with matched control and also began a sustained long-term prospective study into the broader issue of smoking and health, which involved studying the smoking habits and health of over 30,000 doctors over a period of several years. His certificate for election to the Royal Society called him "...the leader in the development in medicine of the precise experimental methods now used nationally and internationally in the evaluation of new therapeutic and prophylactic agents."
International clinical trials day is celebrated on 20 May.
One way of classifying clinical trials is by the way the researchers behave.
A third classification is whether the trial design allows changes based on data accumulated during the trial.
Finally, a common way of distinguishing trials is by phase, which in simple terms, relates to how close the drug is to being clinically proven both effective for its stated purpose and accepted by the regulatory authorities for use for that purpose.
Clinical trials involving new drugs are commonly classified into five phases. Each phase of the drug approval process is treated as a separate clinical trial. The drug-development process will normally proceed through all four phases over many years. If the drug successfully passes through phases 1, 2, and 3, it will usually be approved by the national regulatory authority for use in the general population. Before pharmaceutical companies start clinical trials on a drug, they will also have conducted extensive preclinical studies. Each phase has a different purpose and helps scientists answer a different question.
|Phase 0||Pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics in humans||Phase 0 trials are optional first-in-human trials. Single subtherapeutic doses of the study drug or treatment are given to a small number of subjects (typically 10 to 15) to gather preliminary data on the agent's pharmacodynamics (what the drug does to the body) and pharmacokinetics (what the body does to the drugs). For a test drug, the trial documents the absorption, distribution, metabolization, and removal (excretion) of the drug, and the drug's interactions within the body, to confirm that these appear to be as expected.|
|Phase 1||Screening for safety||Often the first-in-man trials. Testing within a small group of people (typically 20–80) to evaluate safety, determine safe dosage ranges, and begin to identify side effects. A drug's side effects could be subtle or long term, or may only happen with a few people, so phase 1 trials are not expected to identify all side effects.|
|Phase 2||Establishing the efficacy of the drug, usually against a placebo||Testing with a larger group of people (typically 100–300) to determine efficacy and to further evaluate its safety. The gradual increase in test group size allows for the evocation of less-common side effects.|
|Phase 3||Final confirmation of safety and efficacy||Testing with large groups of people (typically 1,000–3,000) to confirm its efficacy, evaluate its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow it to be used safely.|
|Phase 4||Safety studies during sales||Postmarketing studies delineate additional information, including the treatment's risks, benefits, and optimal use. As such, they are ongoing during the drug's lifetime of active medical use. (Particularly after approval under FDA Accelerated Approval Program)|
A fundamental distinction in evidence-based practice is between observational studies and randomized controlled trials. Types of observational studies in epidemiology, such as the cohort study and the case-control study, provide less compelling evidence than the randomized controlled trial. In observational studies, the investigators retrospectively assess associations between the treatments given to participants and their health status, with potential for considerable errors in design and interpretation.
A randomized controlled trial can provide compelling evidence that the study treatment causes an effect on human health.
Clinical studies having small numbers of subjects may be "sponsored" by single researchers or a small group of researchers, and are designed to test simple questions or feasibility to expand the research for a more comprehensive randomized controlled trial.
In many cases, giving a placebo to a person suffering from a disease may be unethical. To address this, it has become a common practice to conduct "active comparator" (also known as "active control") trials. In trials with an active control group, subjects are given either the experimental treatment or a previously approved treatment with known effectiveness.
In such studies, multiple experimental treatments are tested in a single trial. Genetic testing enables researchers to group patients according to their genetic profile, deliver drugs based on that profile to that group and compare the results. Multiple companies can participate, each bringing a different drug. The first such approach targets squamous cell cancer, which includes varying genetic disruptions from patient to patient. Amgen, AstraZeneca and Pfizer are involved, the first time they have worked together in a late-stage trial. Patients whose genomic profiles do not match any of the trial drugs receive a drug designed to stimulate the immune system to attack cancer.
A clinical trial protocol is a document used to define and manage the trial. It is prepared by a panel of experts. All study investigators are expected to strictly observe the protocol.
The protocol describes the scientific rationale, objective(s), design, methodology, statistical considerations and organization of the planned trial. Details of the trial are provided in documents referenced in the protocol, such as an investigator's brochure.
The protocol contains a precise study plan to assure safety and health of the trial subjects and to provide an exact template for trial conduct by investigators. This allows data to be combined across all investigators/sites. The protocol also informs the study administrators (often a contract research organization).
The format and content of clinical trial protocols sponsored by pharmaceutical, biotechnology or medical device companies in the United States, European Union, or Japan have been standardized to follow Good Clinical Practice guidance issued by the International Conference on Harmonization of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH). Regulatory authorities in Canada and Australia also follow ICH guidelines. Journals such as Trials, encourage investigators to publish their protocols.
Clinical trials recruit study subjects to sign a document representing their "informed consent". The document includes details such as its purpose, duration, required procedures, risks, potential benefits, key contacts and institutional requirements. The participant then decides whether to sign the document. The document is not a contract, as the participant can withdraw at any time without penalty.
Informed consent is a legal process in which a recruit is instructed about key facts before deciding whether to participate. Researchers explain the details of the study in terms the subject can understand. The information is presented in the subject's native language. Generally, children cannot autonomously provide informed consent, but depending on their age and other factors, may be required to provide informed assent.
The number of subjects has a large impact on the ability to reliably detect and measure effects of the intervention. This is described as its "power". The larger the number of participants, the greater the statistical power and the greater the cost.
The statistical power estimates the ability of a trial to detect a difference of a particular size (or larger) between the treatment and control groups. For example, a trial of a lipid-lowering drug versus placebo with 100 patients in each group might have a power of 0.90 to detect a difference between placebo and trial groups receiving dosage of 10 mg/dL or more, but only 0.70 to detect a difference of 6 mg/dL.
Merely giving a treatment can have nonspecific effects. These are controlled for by the inclusion of patients who receive only a placebo. Subjects are assigned randomly without informing them to which group they belonged. Many trials are doubled-blinded so that researchers do not know to which group a subject is assigned.
Assigning a subject to a placebo group can pose an ethical problem if it violates his or her right to receive the best available treatment. The Declaration of Helsinki provides guidelines on this issue.
Clinical trials are only a small part of the research that goes into developing a new treatment. Potential drugs, for example, first have to be discovered, purified, characterized, and tested in labs (in cell and animal studies) before ever undergoing clinical trials. In all, about 1,000 potential drugs are tested before just one reaches the point of being tested in a clinical trial. For example, a new cancer drug has, on average, six years of research behind it before it even makes it to clinical trials. But the major holdup in making new cancer drugs available is the time it takes to complete clinical trials themselves. On average, about eight years pass from the time a cancer drug enters clinical trials until it receives approval from regulatory agencies for sale to the public. Drugs for other diseases have similar timelines.
Some reasons a clinical trial might last several years:
The biggest barrier to completing studies is the shortage of people who take part. All drug and many device trials target a subset of the population, meaning not everyone can participate. Some drug trials require patients to have unusual combinations of disease characteristics. It is a challenge to find the appropriate patients and obtain their consent, especially when they may receive no direct benefit (because they are not paid, the study drug is not yet proven to work, or the patient may receive a placebo). In the case of cancer patients, fewer than 5% of adults with cancer will participate in drug trials. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), about 400 cancer medicines were being tested in clinical trials in 2005. Not all of these will prove to be useful, but those that are may be delayed in getting approved because the number of participants is so low.
For clinical trials involving potential for seasonal influences (such as airborne allergies, seasonal affective disorder, influenza, and skin diseases), the study may be done during a limited part of the year (such as spring for pollen allergies), when the drug can be tested.
Clinical trials that do not involve a new drug usually have a much shorter duration. (Exceptions are epidemiological studies, such as the Nurses' Health Study).
Clinical trials designed by a local investigator, and (in the US) federally funded clinical trials, are almost always administered by the researcher who designed the study and applied for the grant. Small-scale device studies may be administered by the sponsoring company. Clinical trials of new drugs are usually administered by a contract research organization (CRO) hired by the sponsoring company. The sponsor provides the drug and medical oversight. A CRO is contracted to perform all the administrative work on a clinical trial. For phases 2, 3 and 4, the CRO recruits participating researchers, trains them, provides them with supplies, coordinates study administration and data collection, sets up meetings, monitors the sites for compliance with the clinical protocol, and ensures the sponsor receives data from every site. Specialist site management organizations can also be hired to coordinate with the CRO to ensure rapid IRB/IEC approval and faster site initiation and patient recruitment. Phase 1 clinical trials of new medicines are often conducted in a specialist clinical trial clinic, with dedicated pharmacologists, where the subjects can be observed by full-time staff. These clinics are often run by a CRO which specialises in these studies.
At a participating site, one or more research assistants (often nurses) do most of the work in conducting the clinical trial. The research assistant's job can include some or all of the following: providing the local institutional review board (IRB) with the documentation necessary to obtain its permission to conduct the study, assisting with study start-up, identifying eligible patients, obtaining consent from them or their families, administering study treatment(s), collecting and statistically analyzing data, maintaining and updating data files during followup, and communicating with the IRB, as well as the sponsor and CRO.
Janet Yang uses the Interactional Justice Model to test the effects of willingness to talk with a doctor and clinical trial enrollment. Results found that potential clinical trial candidates were less likely to enroll in clinical trials if the patient is more willing to talk with their doctor. The reasoning behind this discovery may be patients are happy with their current care. Another reason for the negative relationship between perceived fairness and clinical trial enrollment is the lack of independence from the care provider. Results found that there is a positive relationship between a lack of willingness to talk with their doctor and clinical trial enrollment. Lack of willingness to talk about clinical trials with current care providers may be due to patients' independence from the doctor. Patients who are less likely to talk about clinical trials are more willing to use other sources of information to gain a better insight of alternative treatments. Clinical trial enrollment should be motivated to utilize websites and television advertising to inform the public about clinical trial enrollment.
The last decade has seen a proliferation of information technology use in the planning and conduct of clinical trials. Clinical trial management systems are often used by research sponsors or CROs to help plan and manage the operational aspects of a clinical trial, particularly with respect to investigational sites. Advanced analytics for identifying researchers and research sites with expertise in a given area utilize public and private information about ongoing research. Web-based electronic data capture (EDC) and clinical data management systems are used in a majority of clinical trials to collect case report data from sites, manage its quality and prepare it for analysis. Interactive voice response systems are used by sites to register the enrollment of patients using a phone and to allocate patients to a particular treatment arm (although phones are being increasingly replaced with web-based (IWRS) tools which are sometimes part of the EDC system). While patient-reported outcome were often paper based in the past, measurements are increasingly being collected using web portals or hand-held ePRO (or eDiary) devices, sometimes wireless. Statistical software is used to analyze the collected data and prepare them for regulatory submission. Access to many of these applications are increasingly aggregated in web-based clinical trial portals. In 2011, the FDA approved a phase 1 trial that used telemonitoring, also known as remote patient monitoring, to collect biometric data in patients' homes and transmit it electronically to the trial database. This technology provides many more data points and is far more convenient for patients, because they have fewer visits to trial sites.
Clinical trials are closely supervised by appropriate regulatory authorities. All studies involving a medical or therapeutic intervention on patients must be approved by a supervising ethics committee before permission is granted to run the trial. The local ethics committee has discretion on how it will supervise noninterventional studies (observational studies or those using already collected data). In the US, this body is called the Institutional Review Board (IRB); in the EU, they are called Ethics committees. Most IRBs are located at the local investigator's hospital or institution, but some sponsors allow the use of a central (independent/for profit) IRB for investigators who work at smaller institutions.
To be ethical, researchers must obtain the full and informed consent of participating human subjects. (One of the IRB's main functions is to ensure potential patients are adequately informed about the clinical trial.) If the patient is unable to consent for him/herself, researchers can seek consent from the patient's legally authorized representative. In California, the state has prioritized the individuals who can serve as the legally authorized representative.
In some US locations, the local IRB must certify researchers and their staff before they can conduct clinical trials. They must understand the federal patient privacy (HIPAA) law and good clinical practice. The International Conference of Harmonisation Guidelines for Good Clinical Practice is a set of standards used internationally for the conduct of clinical trials. The guidelines aim to ensure the "rights, safety and well being of trial subjects are protected".
The notion of informed consent of participating human subjects exists in many countries all over the world, but its precise definition may still vary.
Informed consent is clearly a 'necessary' condition for ethical conduct but does not 'ensure' ethical conduct. In compassionate use trials the latter becomes a particularly difficult problem. The final objective is to serve the community of patients or future patients in a best-possible and most responsible way. See also Expanded access. However, it may be hard to turn this objective into a well-defined, quantified, objective function. In some cases this can be done, however, for instance, for questions of when to stop sequential treatments (see Odds algorithm), and then quantified methods may play an important role.
In response to specific cases in which unfavorable data from pharmaceutical company-sponsored research were not published, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America published new guidelines urging companies to report all findings and limit the financial involvement in drug companies by researchers. The US Congress signed into law a bill which requires phase II and phase III clinical trials to be registered by the sponsor on the clinicaltrials.gov website compiled by the National Institutes of Health.
Drug researchers not directly employed by pharmaceutical companies often seek grants from manufacturers, and manufacturers often look to academic researchers to conduct studies within networks of universities and their hospitals, e.g., for translational cancer research. Similarly, competition for tenured academic positions, government grants and prestige create conflicts of interest among academic scientists. According to one study, approximately 75% of articles retracted for misconduct-related reasons have no declared industry financial support. Seeding trials are particularly controversial.
In the United States, all clinical trials submitted to the FDA as part of a drug approval process are independently assessed by clinical experts within the Food and Drug Administration, including inspections of primary data collection at selected clinical trial sites.
In 2001, the editors of 12 major journals issued a joint editorial, published in each journal, on the control over clinical trials exerted by sponsors, particularly targeting the use of contracts which allow sponsors to review the studies prior to publication and withhold publication. They strengthened editorial restrictions to counter the effect. The editorial noted that contract research organizations had, by 2000, received 60% of the grants from pharmaceutical companies in the US. Researchers may be restricted from contributing to the trial design, accessing the raw data, and interpreting the results.
Responsibility for the safety of the subjects in a clinical trial is shared between the sponsor, the local site investigators (if different from the sponsor), the various IRBs that supervise the study, and (in some cases, if the study involves a marketable drug or device), the regulatory agency for the country where the drug or device will be sold.
For safety reasons, many clinical trials of drugs are designed to exclude women of childbearing age, pregnant women, or women who become pregnant during the study. In some cases, the male partners of these women are also excluded or required to take birth control measures.
Throughout the clinical trial, the sponsor is responsible for accurately informing the local site investigators of the true historical safety record of the drug, device or other medical treatments to be tested, and of any potential interactions of the study treatment(s) with already approved treatments. This allows the local investigators to make an informed judgment on whether to participate in the study or not. The sponsor is also responsible for monitoring the results of the study as they come in from the various sites as the trial proceeds. In larger clinical trials, a sponsor will use the services of a data monitoring committee (DMC, known in the US as a data safety monitoring board). This independent group of clinicians and statisticians meets periodically to review the unblinded data the sponsor has received so far. The DMC has the power to recommend termination of the study based on their review, for example if the study treatment is causing more deaths than the standard treatment, or seems to be causing unexpected and study-related serious adverse events. The sponsor is responsible for collecting adverse event reports from all site investigators in the study, and for informing all the investigators of the sponsor's judgment as to whether these adverse events were related or not related to the study treatment.
The sponsor and the local site investigators are jointly responsible for writing a site-specific informed consent that accurately informs the potential subjects of the true risks and potential benefits of participating in the study, while at the same time presenting the material as briefly as possible and in ordinary language. FDA regulations state that participating in clinical trials is voluntary, with the subject having the right not to participate or to end participation at any time.
The ethical principle of primum non nocere ("first, do no harm") guides the trial, and if an investigator believes the study treatment may be harming subjects in the study, the investigator can stop participating at any time. On the other hand, investigators often have a financial interest in recruiting subjects, and could act unethically to obtain and maintain their participation.
The local investigators are responsible for conducting the study according to the study protocol, and supervising the study staff throughout the duration of the study. The local investigator or his/her study staff are also responsible for ensuring the potential subjects in the study understand the risks and potential benefits of participating in the study. In other words, they (or their legally authorized representatives) must give truly informed consent.
Local investigators are responsible for reviewing all adverse event reports sent by the sponsor. These adverse event reports contain the opinion of both the investigator at the site where the adverse event occurred, and the sponsor, regarding the relationship of the adverse event to the study treatments. Local investigators also are responsible for making an independent judgment of these reports, and promptly informing the local IRB of all serious and study treatment-related adverse events.
When a local investigator is the sponsor, there may not be formal adverse event reports, but study staff at all locations are responsible for informing the coordinating investigator of anything unexpected. The local investigator is responsible for being truthful to the local IRB in all communications relating to the study.
Approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), or ethics board, is necessary before all but the most informal research can begin. In commercial clinical trials, the study protocol is not approved by an IRB before the sponsor recruits sites to conduct the trial. However, the study protocol and procedures have been tailored to fit generic IRB submission requirements. In this case, and where there is no independent sponsor, each local site investigator submits the study protocol, the consent(s), the data collection forms, and supporting documentation to the local IRB. Universities and most hospitals have in-house IRBs. Other researchers (such as in walk-in clinics) use independent IRBs.
The IRB scrutinizes the study for both medical safety and protection of the patients involved in the study, before it allows the researcher to begin the study. It may require changes in study procedures or in the explanations given to the patient. A required yearly "continuing review" report from the investigator updates the IRB on the progress of the study and any new safety information related to the study.
In the US, the FDA can audit the files of local site investigators after they have finished participating in a study, to see if they were correctly following study procedures. This audit may be random, or for cause (because the investigator is suspected of fraudulent data). Avoiding an audit is an incentive for investigators to follow study procedures. A 'covered clinical study' refers to a trial submitted to the FDA as part of a marketing application (for example, as part of an NDA or 510(k)), about which the FDA may require disclosure of financial interest of the clinical investigator in the outcome of the study. For example, the applicant must disclose whether an investigator owns equity in the sponsor, or owns proprietary interest in the product under investigation. The FDA defines a covered study as "...any study of a drug, biological product or device in humans submitted in a marketing application or reclassification petition that the applicant or FDA relies on to establish that the product is effective (including studies that show equivalence to an effective product) or any study in which a single investigator makes a significant contribution to the demonstration of safety."
Alternatively, many American pharmaceutical companies have moved some clinical trials overseas. Benefits of conducting trials abroad include lower costs (in some countries) and the ability to run larger trials in shorter timeframes, whereas a potential disadvantage exists in lower-quality trial management. Different countries have different regulatory requirements and enforcement abilities. An estimated 40% of all clinical trials now take place in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Central and South America. "There is no compulsory registration system for clinical trials in these countries and many do not follow European directives in their operations", says Jacob Sijtsma of the Netherlands-based WEMOS, an advocacy health organisation tracking clinical trials in developing countries.
Beginning in the 1980s, harmonization of clinical trial protocols was shown as feasible across countries of the European Union. At the same time, coordination between Europe, Japan and the United States led to a joint regulatory-industry initiative on international harmonization named after 1990 as the International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) Currently, most clinical trial programs follow ICH guidelines, aimed at "ensuring that good quality, safe and effective medicines are developed and registered in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. These activities are pursued in the interest of the consumer and public health, to prevent unnecessary duplication of clinical trials in humans and to minimize the use of animal testing without compromising the regulatory obligations of safety and effectiveness."
Aggregating safety data across clinical trials during drug development is important because trials are generally designed to focus on determining how well the drug works. The safety data collected and aggregated across multiple trials as the drug is developed allows the sponsor, investigators and regulatory agencies to monitor the aggregate safety profile of experimental medicines as they're developed. The value of assessing aggregate safety data is: a) decisions based on aggregate safety assessment during development of the medicine can be made throughout the medicine's development and b) it sets up the sponsor and regulators well for assessing the medicine's safety after the drug is approved.
Clinical trial costs vary depending on trial phase, type of trial, and disease studied. A study of clinical trials conducted in the United States from 2004 to 2012 found the average cost of phase I trials to be $1.4 million and $6.6 million, depending on the type of disease. Phase II trials ranged from $7 million to $20 million, and phase III trials from $11 million to $53 million.
The cost of a study depends on many factors, especially the number of sites conducting the study, the number of patients involved, and whether the study treatment is already approved for medical use.
The expenses incurred by a pharmaceutical company in administering a phase 3 or 4 clinical trial may include, among others:
These expenses are incurred over several years.
In the US, sponsors may receive a 50 percent tax credit for clinical trials conducted on drugs being developed for the treatment of orphan diseases. National health agencies, such as the US National Institutes of Health, offer grants to investigators who design clinical trials that attempt to answer research questions of interest to the agency. In these cases, the investigator who writes the grant and administers the study acts as the sponsor, and coordinates data collection from any other sites. These other sites may or may not be paid for participating in the study, depending on the amount of the grant and the amount of effort expected from them. Using internet resources can, in some cases, reduce the economic burden.
Investigators are often compensated for their work in clinical trials. These amounts can be small, just covering a partial salary for research assistants and the cost of any supplies (usually the case with national health agency studies), or be substantial and include 'overhead' that allows the investigator to pay the research staff during times between clinical trials.
Participants in phase 1 drug trials do not gain any direct health benefit from taking part. They are generally paid a fee for their time, with payments regulated and not related to any risk involved. In later phase trials, subjects may not be paid to ensure their motivation for participating with potential for a health benefit or contributing to medical knowledge. Small payments may be made for study-related expenses such as travel or as compensation for their time in providing follow-up information about their health after the trial treatment ends.
Phase 0 and phase 1 drug trials seek healthy volunteers. Most other clinical trials seek patients who have a specific disease or medical condition. The diversity observed in society should be reflected in clinical trials through the appropriate inclusion of ethnic minority populations. Patient recruitment or participant recruitment plays a significant role in the activities and responsibilities of sites conducting clinical trials.
All volunteers being considered for a trial are required to undertake a medical screening. Requirements differ according to the trial needs, but typically volunteers would be screened in a medical laboratory for:
It has been observed that participants in clinical trials are disproportionately white. This may reduce the validity of findings in respect of non-white patients.
Depending on the kind of participants required, sponsors of clinical trials, or contract research organizations working on their behalf, try to find sites with qualified personnel as well as access to patients who could participate in the trial. Working with those sites, they may use various recruitment strategies, including patient databases, newspaper and radio advertisements, flyers, posters in places the patients might go (such as doctor's offices), and personal recruitment of patients by investigators.
Volunteers with specific conditions or diseases have additional online resources to help them locate clinical trials. For example, the Fox Trial Finder connects Parkinson's disease trials around the world to volunteers who have a specific set of criteria such as location, age, and symptoms. Other disease-specific services exist for volunteers to find trials related to their condition. Volunteers may search directly on ClinicalTrials.gov to locate trials using a registry run by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and National Library of Medicine.
The risk information seeking and processing (RISP) model analyzes social implications that affect attitudes and decision making pertaining to clinical trials. People who hold a higher stake or interest in the treatment provided in a clinical trial showed a greater likelihood of seeking information about clinical trials. Cancer patients reported more optimistic attitudes towards clinical trials than the general population. Having a more optimistic outlook on clinical trials also leads to greater likelihood of enrolling.
Of the drugs started in clinical trials on humans, only 10 percent secure F.D.A. approval. ...
An academic clinical trials is a clinical trial not funded by pharmaceutical or biotechnology company for commercial ends but by public-good agencies (usually universities or medical trusts) to advance medicine. These trials are a valuable component of the health care system; they benefit patients and help determine the safety and efficacy of drugs and devices, and play an important role in the checks and balances that regular commercially oriented clinical trials.A typical area of academic clinical trials is the advancement and optimization of already existing therapies. Thus, academic clinical trials may for instance test how a combination of registered drugs may improve treatment outcomes; or they may apply registered treatments in additional, less frequent indications. Such research questions are not a primary focus of for-profit companies, and thus these trials are typically initiated by individual investigators or academic research organizations.
There are many different organizations which have an interest in academic clinical trials and facilitate or take part in their conduct. These organizations include:
Hospitals, universities, researchers and institutions who view trials as a source of income and prestige, and receive private, charitable and governmental funding.
Pharmaceutical or biotech companies who view the development and commercialization of treatments as their business.
Regulators who wish to ensure treatments are safe and work effectively.
Patients and patients' organizations and associations who want faster access to advanced treatments.Academic clinical trials are run at academic sites, such as medical schools, academic hospitals, and universities; and non-academic sites which may be managed by so-called site management organizations (SMOs). Site management organizations are for-profit organizations which enlist and manage the physician practice sites that actually recruit and follow patients enrolled in clinical trials. In some cases, academic members participate in clinical trials as members of SMOs.Adaptive clinical trial
An adaptive clinical trial is a clinical trial that evaluates a medical device or treatment by observing participant outcomes (and possibly other measures, such as side-effects) on a prescribed schedule, and modifying parameters of the trial protocol in accord with those observations. The adaptation process generally continues throughout the trial, as prescribed in the trial protocol. Modifications may include dosage, sample size, drug undergoing trial, patient selection criteria and "cocktail" mix. In some cases, trials have become an ongoing process that regularly adds and drops therapies and patient groups as more information is gained. Importantly, the trial protocol is set before the trial begins; the protocol pre-specifies the adaptation schedule and processes.
The aim of an adaptive trial is to more quickly identify drugs or devices that have a therapeutic effect, and to zero in on patient populations for whom the drug is appropriate. A key modification is to adjust dosing levels. Traditionally, non-adverse patient reactions are not considered until a trial is completed.Analysis of clinical trials
The analysis of clinical trials involves a large number of related topics including:
the choice of an estimand (measure of effect size) of interest that is closely linked to the objectives of the trial,
the choice and definition of analysis sets,
the choice of an appropriate statistical model for the type of data being studied,
appropriate accounting for the treatment assignment process,
handling of missing data,
handling of multiple comparisons or endpoints,
accounting for interim analyses and trial adaptations,
and appropriate data presentation.One basic guidance document on this topic is the International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use guidance E9.BIA 10-2474
BIA 10-2474 is an experimental fatty acid amide hydrolase inhibitor developed by the Portuguese pharmaceutical company Bial-Portela & Ca. SA. It interacts with the human endocannabinoid system. The drug was in development for the treatment of a range of different medical conditions from anxiety disorder to Parkinson's disease, also for the treatment of chronic pain of multiple sclerosis, cancer, hypertension or the treatment of obesity. A clinical trial with this drug was underway in Rennes, France, in January 2016, in which serious adverse events occurred affecting five participants, including the death of one man. The underlying mechanism that caused the acute neurotoxicity of this molecule remains unknown.Clinical trial management system
A Clinical Trial Management System (CTMS) is a software system used by biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries to manage clinical trials in clinical research. The system maintains and manages planning, performing and reporting functions, along with participant contact information, tracking deadlines and milestones.Fontolizumab
Fontolizumab (planned trade name HuZAF) is a humanized monoclonal antibody and an immunosuppressive drug for the treatment of auto-immune diseases like Crohn's disease. A phase II clinical trial investigating the use for rheumatoid arthritis was terminated because the first phase did not meet the endpoint.Gestadienol acetate
Gestadienol acetate (developmental code name CIBA-31458-Ba or CIBA-31458) an orally active progestin which was described in the literature in 1967 and was never marketed. It has no androgenic or estrogenic effects. The effects of gestadienol acetate on the endometrium and its general pharmacology were studied in a clinical trial in women. It has also been studied in a clinical trial for benign prostatic hyperplasia in men, but was ineffective.Glossary of clinical research
A glossary of terms used in clinical research.Hawthorne effect
The Hawthorne effect (also referred to as the observer effect) is a type of reactivity in which individuals modify an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed. The original research at the Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois, on lighting changes and work structure changes such as working hours and break times was originally interpreted by Elton Mayo and others to mean that paying attention to overall worker needs would improve productivity. Later interpretations such as that done by Landsberger suggested that the novelty of being research subjects and the increased attention from such could lead to temporary increases in workers' productivity. This interpretation was dubbed "the Hawthorne effect".Ibalizumab
Ibalizumab (trade name Trogarzo) is a non-immunosuppressive humanised monoclonal antibody that binds CD4, the primary receptor for HIV, and inhibits HIV from entering cells. It is a post-attachment inhibitor, blocking HIV from binding to the CCR5 and CXCR4 co-receptors after HIV binds to the CD4 receptor on the surface of a CD4 cell. Post-attachment inhibitors are a sub-class of HIV drugs called entry inhibitors.
In a Phase 3 trial with 48 weeks of follow-up, HIV patients with multi-drug resistance tolerated ibalizumab well in combination with other treatments, and 59% of patients achieved viral suppression.On March 6, 2018, FDA approved ibalizumab for multidrug-resistant HIV-1. It is administered intravenously every 14 days by a trained medical professional. It is used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs.Jesse Gelsinger
Jesse Gelsinger (June 18, 1981 – September 17, 1999) was the first person publicly identified as having died in a clinical trial for gene therapy. Gelsinger suffered from ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency, an X-linked genetic disease of the liver, the symptoms of which include an inability to metabolize ammonia – a byproduct of protein breakdown. The disease is usually fatal at birth, but Gelsinger had a milder form of the disease, in which the ornithine transcarbamylase gene is mutated in only part of the patient's cells, a condition known as somatic mosaicism. As his deficiency was partial, Gelsinger managed to survive on a restricted diet and special medications.
Gelsinger joined a clinical trial run by the University of Pennsylvania that aimed at developing a treatment for infants born with the severe form of the disease. On September 13, 1999, Gelsinger was injected with an adenoviral vector carrying a corrected gene to test the safety of the procedure. He died four days later at the age of 18, on September 17 at 2:30 pm, apparently having suffered a massive immune response triggered by the use of the viral vector to transport the gene into his cells, leading to multiple organ failure and brain death.A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation concluded that the scientists involved in the trial, including the co-investigator Dr. James M. Wilson (Director of the Institute for Human Gene Therapy), broke several rules of conduct:
Inclusion of Gelsinger as a substitute for another volunteer who dropped out, despite Gelsinger's having high ammonia levels that should have led to his exclusion from the trial.
Failure by the university to report that two patients had experienced serious side effects from the gene therapy.
Failure to disclose, in the informed-consent documentation, the deaths of monkeys given a similar treatment.The University of Pennsylvania later issued a rebuttal, but the university and Children's National Medical Center each agreed to pay more than $500,000 to the government. Both Wilson and the University are reported to have had financial stakes in the research. The Gelsinger case was a severe setback for scientists working in the field.Lebrikizumab
Lebrikizumab (INN) is a humanized monoclonal antibody and an experimental immunosuppressive drug for the treatment of asthma that cannot be adequately controlled with inhalable glucocorticoids. The drug was created by Tanox under the name TNX-650, and a phase I clinical trial for refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma had been performed when Genentech acquired Tanox in 2007. It has successfully completed a Phase II clinical trial for the treatment of asthma.Metachromatic leukodystrophy
Metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD, also called arylsulfatase A deficiency) is a lysosomal storage disease which is commonly listed in the family of leukodystrophies as well as among the sphingolipidoses as it affects the metabolism of sphingolipids. Leukodystrophies affect the growth and/or development of myelin, the fatty covering which acts as an insulator around nerve fibers throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems. MLD involves cerebroside sulfate accumulation. Metachromatic leukodystrophy, like most enzyme deficiencies, has an autosomal recessive inheritance pattern.Phases of clinical research
The phases of clinical research are the steps in which scientists do experiments with a health intervention in an attempt to find enough evidence for a process which would be useful as a medical treatment. In the case of pharmaceutical study, the phases start with drug design and drug discovery then proceed on to animal testing. If this is successful, they begin the clinical phase of development by testing for safety in a few human subjects and expand to test in many study participants to determine if the treatment is effective.Pre-clinical development
In drug development, preclinical development, also named preclinical studies and nonclinical studies, is a stage of research that begins before clinical trials (testing in humans) can begin, and during which important feasibility, iterative testing and drug safety data are collected.
The main goals of pre-clinical studies are to determine the safe dose for first-in-man study and assess a product's safety profile. Products may include new medical devices, drugs, gene therapy solutions and diagnostic tools.
On average, only one in every 5,000 compounds that enters drug discovery to the stage of preclinical development becomes an approved drug.Principal investigator
In Canada and the United States, the term principal investigator (PI) refers to the holder of an independent grant administered by a university and the lead researcher for the grant project, usually in the sciences, such as a laboratory study or a clinical trial. The phrase is also often used as a synonym for "head of the laboratory" or "research group leader." While the expression is common in the sciences, it is used widely for the person or persons who make final decisions and supervise funding and expenditures on a given research project.
A co-investigator (Co-I) assists the principal investigator in the management and leadership of the research project. There may be a number of co-investigators supporting a PI.Protocol (science)
In the natural sciences, a protocol is a predefined written procedural method in the design and implementation of experiments. Protocols are written whenever it is desirable to standardize a laboratory method to ensure successful replication of results by others in the same laboratory or by other laboratories. Detailed protocols also facilitate the assessment of results through peer review. In addition to detailed procedures and lists of required equipment and instruments, protocols often include information on safety precautions, the calculation of results and reporting standards, including statistical analysis and rules for predefining and documenting excluded data to avoid bias. Protocols are employed in a wide range of experimental fields, from social science to quantum mechanics. Written protocols are also employed in manufacturing to ensure consistent quality.Randomized controlled trial
A randomized controlled trial (or randomized control trial; RCT) is a type of scientific (often medical) experiment which aims to reduce bias when testing a new treatment. The people participating in the trial are randomly allocated to either the group receiving the treatment under investigation or to a group receiving standard treatment (or placebo treatment) as the control. Randomization minimises selection bias and the different comparison groups allow the researchers to determine any effects of the treatment when compared with the no treatment (control) group, while other variables are kept constant. The RCT is often considered the gold standard for a clinical trial. RCTs are often used to test the efficacy or effectiveness of various types of medical intervention and may provide information about adverse effects, such as drug reactions. Random assignment of intervention is done after subjects have been assessed for eligibility and recruited, but before the intervention to be studied begins.
Random allocation in real trials is complex, but conceptually the process is like tossing a coin. After randomization, the two (or more) groups of subjects are followed in exactly the same way and the only differences between them is the care they receive. For example, in terms of procedures, tests, outpatient visits, and follow-up calls, should be those intrinsic to the treatments being compared. The most important advantage of proper randomization is that it minimizes allocation bias, balancing both known and unknown prognostic factors, in the assignment of treatments.The terms "RCT" and randomized trial are sometimes used synonymously, but the methodologically sound practice is to reserve the "RCT" name only for trials that contain control groups, in which groups receiving the experimental treatment are compared with control groups receiving no treatment (a placebo-controlled study) or a previously tested treatment (a positive-control study). The term "randomized trials" omits mention of controls and can describe studies that compare multiple treatment groups with each other (in the absence of a control group). Similarly, although the "RCT" name is sometimes expanded as "randomized clinical trial" or "randomized comparative trial", the methodologically sound practice, to avoid ambiguity in the scientific literature, is to retain "control" in the definition of "RCT" and thus reserve that name only for trials that contain controls. Not all randomized clinical trials are randomized controlled trials (and some of them could never be, in cases where controls would be impractical or unethical to institute). The term randomized controlled clinical trials is a methodologically sound alternate expansion for "RCT" in RCTs that concern clinical research; however, RCTs are also employed in other research areas, including many of the social sciences.Remission (medicine)
Remission is either the reduction or abatement of the symptoms of a disease and the period during which this occurs. A partial remission may be defined for cancer as 50% or greater reduction in the measurable parameters of tumor growth as may be found on physical examination, radiologic study, or by biomarker levels from a blood or urine test. A complete remission is defined as complete disappearance of all such manifestations of disease. Each disease or even clinical trial can have its own definition of a partial remission.
(EBM I to II-1; A to B)
(EBM II-2 to II-3; B to C)
|Analysis of clinical trials|
|Interpretation of results|