Anybody could claim to have tested a treatment in a clinical trial but how would you know if their results were reliable? What makes for a really rigorous test of a potential new treatment?
"Genuine, trustworthy trials will never expect participants to make any payment."
If you are told that a treatment has been tested in clinical trials, ask for more details and find out if the trial design included:
Half of the participants in a well-designed Phase II or III clinical trial will be given a placebo ('dummy drug') instead of the trial drug. The trial must ensure that any beneficial effects seen are entirely down to the trial treatment itself and not due to the power of positive thinking, the extra attention from medical staff that comes with participating in a trial, or any other factor.
Rigorous trials are 'double blinded'. This means that neither the doctors and nurses involved in the trial nor the trial participants know who is taking the real drug and who is taking the placebo. This prevents unintentional bias creeping in when participants are reporting how they feel or when the researchers are making assessments and looking at data.
Participants in trials should be assigned to the placebo group or treatment group at random. This is usually carried out by computer and prevents bias in choosing which patients get the trial drug.
Large numbers of participants
The later stages of clinical testing that aim to establish with certainty whether or not a treatment is of benefit will generally involve participants numbering in the hundreds. Only by including this many people can researchers be sufficiently sure that the effects they are seeing are not occurring by chance.
Where are the results published?
The results of successful clinical trials will usually be shared with the research community through publication in reputable medical journals. Before the results can be published in these journals, the methods used in the trial will be scrutinised by independent scientists to ensure that they are reliable.
Still not sure?
The Association's research development team is available to discuss unproven treatments and trials.