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Clinical Trials Recruitment

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The Four Phases of Clinical Trials


Due to the different methods used to verify pharmacology, effectiveness, and safety, clinical trials are usually divided into several phases to find answers to different questions. Generally speaking, clinical trials can be divided into four phases.


 Phase 1Phase 2Phase 3Phase 4
PurposeExplore the pharmacology and safety of the drug. Find the highest dose suitable for use in humans, without causing serious side effects.Evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the drug at different doses.Compare the efficacy and safety of new drugs with conventional treatment options or placebo. Some phase III clinical trials will also investigate the impact of new drugs on patients’ quality of life.Evaluate the conditions in which patients take the drug after it is launched on the market, including the long-term efficacy and side effects of the drug.
Recruitment target groupHealthy adults. Some clinical trials will also recruit patients, mainly cancer patients. Some drugs will be tested on patients with different types of cancer.Patients for which the drug is indicated.Patients for which the drug is indicated.Patients who are currently taking the drug or have already ceased taking the drug.
Number of recruitsWithin 100Several hundredSeveral thousandTens of thousands

Benefits of Participating in Clinical Trials


Participation in clinical trials allows patients to receive cutting-edge treatments that may not be available through standard care and clinical protocols. Clinical trials provide access to new drugs and treatments that can potentially improve patient outcomes and quality of life. Additionally, participating in clinical trials helps to advance medical knowledge and improve treatments for future patients.

Limitations of clinical trials:

  • Patients participating in clinical trials must meet specific criteria, so not all patients may be eligible to participate.
  • Clinical trials generally use double-blind randomised controlled trials, meaning that participants or investigators cannot determine the treatment groups (in effect, “blind” to the treatment group allocation). Therefore there is a chance that a given patient may not necessarily be able to try the new drug or treatment should they be allocated to the control group (e.g., placebo or standard treatment group)
  • Because the medical team needs clinic to closely observe the patient’s condition, patients need to spend more time and resources to regularly return to the research centre or hospital for follow-up.
  • As the new drug is still under research, some of its risks and side effects may not be well understood.

The content above has been reviewed by our medical team. It is provided for reference only and cannot replace the opinion given by medical professionals.
Last reviewed on: 10 March 2021
Translated on: 20 April 2023

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  2. American Cancer Society. What are the phases of clinical trials? https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/clinical-trials/what-you-need-to-know/phases-of-clinical-trials.html. Accessed 10 Mar 2020.
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