What happens after a clinical trial is completed?

Learn about the next possible steps following the completion of a clinical research study.

You join the community.

As a clinical study participant, you belong to a large community of volunteers around the world. Together study participants help researchers answer important health questions and discover new medical treatments.

You can discuss continuing treatment.

After your participation has ended, you and your doctor/researcher should work together to determine the best next steps in your care. Sometimes studies are designed to provide access to the study medication for longer periods after the study is over. However, this is the exception, not the rule, so please discuss it with your study doctor.

The treatment might move forward and might not.

What happens to a treatment after the trial results are analysed depends on the phase of the trial. After a Phase 1 or 2 trial the results will tell the researchers whether to move on to the next phase or to stop testing because the drug was unsafe or ineffective. When a Phase 3 trial is complete, the researchers examine the data and decide whether the results have medical importance. In any case, the researchers will carefully and extensively examine any information collected during the trial and then will conclude the meaning of the findings and any further actions.  Every trial teaches doctors something about trials and about treatments even if the trial shows no difference between the treatment and a placebo.

The drug can become approved for use.

Once a new drug or treatment has been proven safe and effective during all three phases of clinical trials, it may be approved for use. To do so, researchers need to submit the research results to authorities (like the FDA in the USA or the EMA in the European Union) in order for them to decide whether to make the drug available for patients. But not all experimental drugs or treatments will be approved.

The results may be published in a peer-reviewed article.

Most of the time results from clinical trials are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. A peer review process is a structured process where experts review the report of the results before it is published to ensure that the process, the analysis and conclusions are of good quality.

Participants can ask the research team members if the study results have been or will be published.

You may be able to access results of the research.

Obtaining the results of your trial will depend upon both the company responsible for the research and the site where it was conducted. Most companies are working on the best way to provide the results in a manner and timeframe that is meaningful and responsible. You may also access trial results on www.clinicaltrials.gov. Published study results are also available by searching for the study’s official name or Protocol ID number in the US National Library of Medicine’s PubMed® database.

Keep in mind that trial results can take some time to be available. Though you may have completed your participation in a clinical trial, the same trial may still be ongoing for the other volunteers in that study. And while some trials are completed in a week, other trials take several years.

Learn more about participating in a clinical trial

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