Clinical studies are conducted for the purpose of advancement of medical knowledge to assist with treatment, diagnosis and disease prevention. The two most common types of research studies are clinical trials and observational studies, some of which offer compensation and some that are offered on a volunteer basis.
Clinical trials require individual participants to try new medical products, processes or behaviors. Often the research is used for the purpose of determining the safety and efficacy of a new drug or product, without prior knowledge of its ability to help or harm a patient. Observational studies are conducted to assess the outcomes of a protocol or process followed by a group of participants. Observing the outcomes of regular medical protocols and use of drugs or treatments may be part of an observational study, but participants are not required to try new, untested products.
Common reasons for conducting clinical studies include evaluating the effects of one or more interventions used to treat a disease, syndrome or condition, as well as understanding risk factors of various conditions. Other reasons include measuring ways to improve the quality of life for those treated for chronic illness, as well as reducing the development of a disease. Clinical studies are typically led by a medical doctor, and may have a team of other health care professionals. They may be sponsored by a variety of organizations, including academic medical centers, pharmaceutical companies, health care providers and voluntary groups.