If you want to be a part of finding new solutions to health problems, joining a clinical trial is one of the best ways you can help. If you're a patient with a health condition, you could potentially receive new treatments before they become widely available. You will also help advance our understanding of disease and how to treat it. Healthy volunteers who are critical for initial safety testing may be paid for their participation. Everyone who takes part in a clinical trial is playing an important role in making new medicines possible.
Each clinical study has guidelines for participants based on specific factors, such as age, type of disease, medical history and current health. Depending on the study, researchers may seek healthy individuals or those with the particular illness under study. There are specific criteria for being included or excluded. For example, the trial may involve women who have osteoporosis but have never been treated for it. 
At its most basic level, a clinical study tests the effects of a potential new treatment on participants. Study participants receive potential treatments and doctors study how the treatment affects them. Some patients do not actually receive the test treatment, but instead receive a placebo (sometimes called a sugar pill - usually just a safe, inactive substance) or the current standard treatment as part of the "control" group. The progress of the participants is followed closely by doctors.
The initial study screening is an opportunity for you to learn about the study and for the clinical team to learn about you. You are given information about the study to make sure you what is understand involved in the trial and your rights as a trial participant. A doctor takes your medical history, and you may receive diagnostic tests. If your health status matches the criteria for the study, you will be given the option to participate.
    As part of the screening and randomly throughout the trial, you may be tested for nicotine, alcohol and recreational drug use. You may also be tested for HIV/AIDS. All results will be treated as confidential. However, where applicable, positive HIV results must be reported to local health authorities.
You have the right to ask any questions of the clinical trial team prior to agreeing to participate (a process called "informed consent"). Some questions you may want to ask include:
    Has this drug been tested on humans before? If so, to what extent?
What is the purpose of the drug?
What are the possible risks?
Which company developed the drug?
Will there be any invasive procedures?
What type of samples will be taken and how often?
How long does the study last?

Informed consent means that clinical trial volunteers understand the details of their clinical study before agreeing to participate. Participants must be provided with all facts about a study, including treatment details and possible risks and benefits. They must sign an informed consent form before they begin a study. In addition, participants must be kept informed throughout the clinical trial. How long do clinical trials last?

Phase 1 studies typically last between one and two weeks. In some studies, periodic visits are required, typically over longer periods. Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4 studies can last several months to several years.
Not always. Make a point to find out upfront whether your health insurance or managed care provider will cover the costs of a particular clinical study. Speak with one of the clinical trials doctors about cost issues before you agree to volunteer as a participant.
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