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Clinical Studies

The many British Columbians who participate in and support our studies are valued research partners.

PHSA actively cultivates an environment in which clinical questions drive new research and where the knowledge we gain from research shapes how we provide care. We support a continuum of research, spanning from research bench (basic science conducted in laboratories) to bedside (clinical research directly involving patients). All clinical research is subject to oversight from a local, independent Research Ethics Board.

Clinical studies

There are a number of different types of studies that involve the participation of human volunteers (patients or non-patients), with the goal of adding to medical knowledge:

  • Clinical trials are regulated by government bodies, such as Health Canada or the US Food & Drug Administration. They involve the study of a specific intervention among participants: a drug or medical device; a procedure, such as a new approach to surgery or radiation therapy; or a change to participants' behaviour, such as diet. New drugs, devices and treatments must undergo clinical trials for effectiveness and safety before they can be approved for general use across Canada.
  • Observational studies differ from clinical trials because they do not focus on introducing a specific intervention to be studied in a participant group. Rather, they observe health outcomes in participants who receive different interventions as part of their clinical care.
  • Behavioural studies are not strictly considered part of clinical research because they don't assess health-related interventions. Instead, they use methods such as questionnaires, focus groups and interviews to help us understand how health outcomes are affected by human behaviour or environmental factors. Like clinical studies, behavioural studies are subject to oversight from a local Research Ethics Board.
Why participate?

Without research, our health care system would be unable to advance and make improvements to the care we provide and the therapies we use. Clinical studies are a critical step in the continuum of research, allowing researchers to observe the real-life effectiveness, safety and side effects of promising medications, treatments or medical devices.

Research participants offer a number of different reasons for why they volunteer for research studies. Healthy people may choose to participate to help others, while those already seeking medical help may participate so they have access to the newest treatment.

What to expect

Clinical research helps us improve health outcomes for the patients we serve. While we encourage you to consider volunteering for research, please know that your decision to participate is completely up to you. You can expect the same level of medical care whether you choose to participate or not.

Before participant recruitments can begin, study proposals must first undergo an ethics and oversight process. Reviews are conducted by an independent Research Ethics Board and by the host agency to ensure all studies meet rigorous standards for ethics, accountability and operational compliance.

Volunteers must meet the clinical trial's eligibility criteria. Each study has guidelines about who can and cannot participate. For example, a clinical trial for a new breast cancer drug may only accept women who are postmenopausal.

Once your eligibility is confirmed, you will be given detailed information about the study so that you can make an informed decision about giving your consent to participate. Information will include:

  • The study's goals and the researcher(s) involved
  • What your participation will involve
  • Any possible benefits, harms and side effects
  • Your rights as a participant
  • How to withdraw consent at any time if you choose

As a final step, you will provide your signature to confirm your informed consent to take part in the study. You will have the opportunity to ask questions about any aspect of the study before you sign.

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