Clinical trial

Any investigation in human subjects intended to discover or verify the clinical, pharmacological and/or other pharmacodynamic effects of an investigational product(s), and/or to identify any adverse reactions to an investigational product(s), and/or to study absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of an investigational product(s) with the object of ascertaining its safety and/or efficacy.
The terms clinical trial and clinical study are synonymous.
Clinical trials are generally divided into Phases I-IV. It is not possible to draw clear distinctions between these phases, and different opinions about details and methodology do exist. However, the individual phases, based on their purposes as related to the clinical development of pharmaceutical products, can be briefly defined as follows:
Phase I. These are the first trials of a new active ingredient or new formulations in humans, often carried out in healthy volunteers. Their purpose is to make a preliminary evaluation of safety, and an initial pharmacokinetic/ pharmacodynamic profile of the active ingredient.
Phase II. The purpose of these therapeutic pilot studies is to determine activity and to assess the short-term safety of the active ingredient in patients suffering from a disease or condition for which it is intended. The trials are preformed in a limited number of subjects and are often, at a later stage, of a comparative (e.g. placebo-controlled) design. This phase is also concerned with the determination of appropriate dose ranges/ regimens and (if possible) the clarification of dose-response relationships in order to provide an optimal background for the design of extensive therapeutic trials.
Phase III. This phase involves trials in large (and possibly varied) patient groups for the purpose of determining the short- and long-term safety-efficacy balance of formulation(s) of the active ingredient, and assessing its overall and relative therapeutic value. The pattern and profile of any frequent adverse reactions must be investigated, and special features of the product must be explored (e.g. clinically relevant drug interactions, factors leading to differences in effect, such as age). The trials should preferably be randomized double-blind, but other designs may be acceptable, e.g. long-term safety studies. In general, the conditions under which the trials are conducted should be as close as possible to the normal conditions of use.
Phase IV. In this phase studies are performed after the pharmaceutical product has been marketed. They are based on the product characteristics on which the marketing authorization was granted and normally take the form of post-marketing surveillance, and assessment of therapeutic value or treatment strategies. Although methods may differ, the same scientific and ethical standards should apply to Phase IV studies as are applied in premarketing studies. After a product has been placed on the market, clinical trials designed to explore new indications, new methods of administration or new combinations, etc., are normally regarded as trials of new pharmaceutical products.
Synonym: Clinical study