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Why participate in a clinical trial?

Whether you are a healthy volunteer or a patient, the reasons why you may want to participate in a clinical trial are diverse. Healthy volunteers often say that they participate to help others and to contribute to scientific progress.1 Participants with a certain illness also want to help others, but also may want to receive investigational treatment and the care and attention of the doctors and other personnel running the trial.1

There are also significant risks in participating in clinical trials, such as unexpected or unwanted side effects or ineffective treatment.2 However, the central goal of clinical trials is to improve current treatment options for patients through designed experimentation.  

To learn more about the potential risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial, read Benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial.


Every single clinical trial is crucial to advancing research that can lead to new therapies, cures and interventions to benefit patients and families.3 Even failed trials provide a tremendous amount of data that transforms future efforts.

The importance of clinical research in medicine can be measured by a trip to your local pharmacy. From eye drops to ibuprofen, and cough medicine to insulin, many over the counter (OTC) products available for everyday use came as the result of a clinical trial. Prescription drugs have also all gone through rigorous trials to ensure that they are safe and effective prior to public use.

Without clinical trials, and their valuable volunteer participants, medical innovation would come to a standstill. Clinical trials are dependent on a certain number of study participants to get critical medicines to the people who need them.


In every clinical trial, the patient is the priority. Research protocols and results are only as good as the care that each clinical trial patient receives, understanding that without patients and healthy volunteers, we would be without much of the groundbreaking research that has transformed modern health care.

Virtually experience a Clinical Trial Journey.  

To answer the question, “are clinical trials important?” you need only consider the critical role of drugs in the prevention and treatment of disease, pain, and mental health.

According to a National Center for Health Statistics 2017 study, 48.9% of Americans have used one prescription drug in the past 30 days, and 11.9% of the US population have used five or more prescription drugs in the same period.4



  1. Why Should I Participate in a Clinical Trial? National Institute of Health website: Published October 2015. Accessed April 6, 2018.

  2. Why Participate in a Clinical Trial. Alzheimer’s Association website: Accessed April 6, 2018.

  3. Bhatt A. Evolution of Clinical Research: A History Before and Beyond James Lind. Perspect Clin Res. 2010; 1(1):6-10.

  4. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2016: With Chartbook on Long-term Trends in Health. Hyattsville, MD. 2017.


To read about clinical research for a specific health condition, or to search by disease area, please view the list of active clinical trials.


Learn about what clinical trials are, why they're important, and the purpose of the different phases of trials.