At the forefront of human health research today are clinical trials—studies that use human volunteers to help medical professionals test new treatments for a wide array of diseases and related health conditions.
Since being launched in February 2000, the Web site ClinicalTrials.gov has provided the latest, most complete information about clinical trials in the United States and abroad. It is a free online service to the public from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Says Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine, which manages the Web site, "ClinicalTrials.gov is a powerful tool for the healthcare consumer. These days, patients are taking an increasingly active role in their own health care.
"ClinicalTrials.gov lets them learn more about clinical studies on everything from Alzheimer's disease to zinc supplements. Without question, it has helped medical investigators with their research recruiting efforts, too."
The site receives 65,000 visitors daily and more than 50 million page views per month. It contains information on more than 95,000 trials funded by the National Institutes of Health, other federal agencies, and private industry. These trials are conducted in all 50 states and in 173 countries.
Since September 2008, ClinicalTrials.gov has also provided a results database for trials of federally approved drugs and medical devices. The database includes information about the types of participants, a statistical summary of the main results, and a listing of adverse events that occurred during the trial, as well as links to published articles about the trial.
"No longer can results be hidden and the public trust betrayed," says Dr. Lindberg. "The goal is to ensure that medical decisions are based on the most complete information possible."
On the ClinicalTrials.gov Web site, you can search for a trial by the name of the disease, the location of the study, the type
of treatment, or the sponsoring institution. The results show you what studies are under way and whether a trial is seeking volunteers. They also tell you the purpose of the study, where and when it will take place, eligibility criteria, and whom to contact for more information.
ClinicalTrials.gov's Helpful Features
ClinicalTrials.gov has many helpful consumer features. If you are interested in breast cancer trials, for example:
- The site also links you to NLM's MedlinePlus (www.medlineplus.gov), where you will find in-depth information, including recent news articles and an interactive tutorial on the topic.
- It also links to NLM's Genetics Home Reference site (www.ghr.nlm.nih.gov) to help you understand genetic factors that can increase the incidence of breast cancer.
- Also, it lets you search medical journal references via NLM's PubMed (www.pubmed.gov).
- And it links to the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov), the lead NIH institute on this particular topic.