Clinical research studies may help researchers find new ways to help prevent, detect, diagnose, or treat diseases, syndromes, or conditions. Clinical research studies may include the study of:
- Investigational drugs or new combinations of drugs
- New surgical procedures or devices
- New ways to use existing treatments to relieve symptoms and/or slow a disease from getting worse in people with illnesses
What is a Placebo?
Some clinical research studies are placebo controlled. A placebo-controlled study means that one group of patients will receive the investigational medication, while a second group, often known as the control group, receives something called a placebo.
A placebo is something that looks like the investigational medication, but it does not contain any active medicine. Some participants may be assigned to receive a placebo. Not all clinical research studies are placebo controlled.
Why Do We Use Placebos in Clinical Trials?
Placebos are used in clinical trials to help evaluate the effect of the investigational medication on participants. One group is given the placebo while the other group is given the investigational medication. The effects on both groups are then documented and compared to see the action of the investigational drug in the study participants. The placebo group provides a baseline with which to compare the treatment group.
Placebos have been used in clinical research for many years. During this time study doctors have observed that some patients may start to feel better even if they just believe they are receiving the investigational treatment. This is called the placebo effect and can happen to anyone participating in a clinical trial.
Placebos help study physicians see how much of the effect patients have when they take the study drug is not just due to the placebo effect but actually due to the investigational treatment.
The use of placebos in clinical trials is important in determining if the investigational medication is both safe and effective. All data that is collected in a clinical trial, even from those patients that are on placebo, is important.