Clinical trials are carried out all the time, all over the world, and are an important element of discovering the effectiveness of new drugs and medical devices.
It is essential they are carefully monitored and regulated in order to ensure the safety of anyone taking part, as well as making sure they remain impartial.
Every clinical trial needs participants. Without patients volunteering to take part in a clinical trial, there can be no clinical trial.
Some trials use special services to find participants for paid research studies, such as trials4us.co.uk.
If you are taking a certain medicine or have a specific condition, sometimes your doctor may ask you to participate in a clinical trial. But it is essential to understand the implications of doing so before you agree to go ahead.
Here, for guidance, are some of the pros and cons to weigh up.
If you volunteer to try out a new drug, you could well be helping both yourself and other people with that condition or disease, especially in the future.
Being given an innovative treatment as part of a trial could help your health improve – often dramatically – as you could be one of the first people to benefit from a new medicine or device.
In addition, you may find that the drug you are trialling gives you fewer side-effects than one you have been on before.
Of course, there is no guarantee that a new drug will work better than the treatment you have already been getting. Some drugs will not benefit everyone taking part, so you may not notice any difference.
The NHS points out that you can leave a trial whenever you want without having to explain why, and without it affecting the care you receive.
And if you are taking part in a randomised study, you may not even be given the real drug – it could be a placebo.
There may well be nasty and unpleasant side-effects while taking the new drug, and of course you will need to factor in the extra trips to the clinic or hospital – paid clinical trials will often pay your expenses.
So if you are considering taking part in a clinical trial, make sure you understand all the pros and cons about it beforehand.