People participate in clinical research for a variety of reasons. People who volunteer for phase
II and phase III trials can gain access to promising drugs long before these compounds are approved for the marketplace. They
typically will get excellent care from the physicians during the course of the study. This care also may be free.
The patient's rights and safety are protected in two important ways. First, any physician
awarded a research grant by a pharmaceutical company or the NIH must obtain approval to conduct the study from an Institutional
Review Board. The review board, which is usually composed of physicians and lay people, is charged with examining the study's
protocol to ensure that the patient's rights are protected, and that the study does not present an undue or unnecessary
risk to the patient. Second, anyone participating in a clinical trial in the United States is required to sign an "informed
consent" form. This form details the nature of the study, the risks involved, and what may happen to a patient in the
The informed consent tells patients that they have a right to leave the study at any time.
Patients considering participating in clinical research should talk about it with their physicians
and medical caregivers. They also should seek to understand the credentials and experience of the individuals and the facility
involved in conducting the study.