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Why do we need clinical trials?

Clinical trials are essential to the development of new medical treatments and diagnostic tests. Without clinical trials, we cannot properly determine whether new treatments developed in the laboratory or by using animal models are effective or safe or whether a diagnostic test may work properly This is because computer simulation and animal testing can only tell us so much about how a new treatment might work, and are no substitute for testing in a living human body.

Clinical trials also allow testing and monitoring of the effect of a treatment on a large number of people to ensure that any improvement as a result of the treatment occurs for many people and is not just a random effect for one person. Most modern medical treatments are a direct result of clinical research. New treatments for all diseases and conditions — including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and asthma — have been developed through clinical research. Clinical trials often lead to new treatments that help people to live longer, and to have less pain or disability.

For example, clinical trials can help:

  • prevent diseases by testing a vaccine
  • detect or diagnose diseases or conditions, for example by testing a blood sample
  • treat diseases or conditions by testing a new medicine or other medical procedure
  • find out how people can control their symptoms or improve their quality of life by testing how a particular diet affects a condition.

Clinical trials also help to improve health care services by raising standards of treatment. Doctors and hospital staff involved in clinical trials are continually trained to provide best practice patient care. Australian clinical trials are recognised internationally as providing very high quality patient care.