Questions to Ask Before Participating in Clinical Trials

Discover important questions about clinical trials which will help you get insights into eligibility, risks, benefits and more before participating.

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Written by Jessica Lewis, PharmD

Published 20 December 2023

Clinical trials are essential for developing new treatments and improving existing ones. However, participating in a clinical trial can be a significant decision that requires careful consideration.

Before joining a clinical trial, it's important to ask the right questions and understand the potential risks and benefits. By understanding what to ask, you can better understand the study's purpose, design, eligibility criteria, potential risks and benefits, participation requirements, compensation and costs.

In this article, we'll explore the questions you should ask before participating in a clinical trial to ensure you make an informed decision.

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Questions about the clinical trial

Before participating in a clinical trial, it's crucial to ask questions to ensure that you understand the clinical study's duration, purpose, design, eligibility criteria, and participation requirements.

Included below are several important questions to ask before deciding to participate in a clinical trial. These questions are designed to help you understand the trial's details and potential impact on your health, and to make an informed decision about whether or not to participate.

  • What is the purpose of the trial?
  • Why do the researchers believe that the treatment being studied may be better than the one being used now? Why may it not be better?
  • What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
  • How will the doctor know if the treatment is working?
  • How long will the trial take?
  • How long do I have to decide before joining this trial?
  • Who can I speak with about questions I have during and after the trial?
  • Who will be in charge of my care during the trial?
  • How will I be informed about the trial’s results?
  • Is there someone I can talk to who has been in the trial?

Questions about the design of the clinical trial

The design of a clinical trial plays a crucial role in determining the effectiveness and safety of a new treatment. Before enrolling in a clinical trial, it's essential to understand the study's design and how it will impact your participation.

Listed below are some key questions to ask about the design of a clinical trial. These questions can help you understand the trial's structure, methods, and goals.

  • What phase is this clinical trial and what does that mean?
  • Has this treatment been tested before?
  • Have there been other trials similar to this one? If yes, what were the results?
  • What types of patients will be in the clinical trial?
  • How many patients are needed for the clinical trial?
  • How many patients will take part in the trial?
  • What are the different treatment groups in the trial?
  • Would I be allocated a treatment by computer or do I have a choice?
  • How long is the treatment duration?
  • What will I have to do if I participate?
  • Will I have to spend time in the hospital or have tests?
  • How long and how often will I have follow-up appointments for after I finish treatment?
  • What treatment will I get if I decide not to enter the trial?

Questions about how the trial will be run

As you consider participating in a clinical trial, it's important to have a clear understanding of how the trial will be conducted. Asking questions about the logistics of the trial can help you prepare and feel more comfortable with your decision to participate.

In particular, these questions could help you learn about the interview process, the trial's schedule of visits, duration, and monitoring process.

  • Can I bring a relative or friend to the appointment when I decide whether to take part or not?
  • Can I record the meeting or take notes?
  • Who will be allowed to see my medical records?
  • Who will be in charge of running the trial and overseeing my participation?
  • Who will be told I am in a trial?
  • What will I have to do if I take part?
  • Who makes sure the trial is going as planned?

Questions regarding the eligibility requirements to participating in a clinical trial

Eligibility requirements are specific criteria that researchers use to determine who can participate in a clinical trial. These requirements can vary depending on the nature of the trial, and it's essential to determine whether you meet them before deciding to participate.

The following questions can help you learn more about the eligibility requirements of the clinical trial:

  • What are the inclusion and exclusion criteria for this trial?
  • Do I need to have a specific medical condition to participate?
  • Are there any age requirements for participation?Are there any specific health or lifestyle requirements for participation?
  • Do I need to be taking specific medications or have a certain medical history to participate?
  • Are there any genetic or family history requirements for participation
  • Can I participate if I have participated in other clinical trials before?
  • Can I participate if I have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?
  • Can I participate if I am pregnant or nursing?

Questions about potential risks and benefits

Clinical trials involve experimental treatments or interventions that may carry unknown risks or benefits. Asking questions about the trial's potential risks and benefits can help you make an informed decision and ensure that you are comfortable with the potential outcomes as well as consider whether the benefits outweigh the risks of participation.

Consider asking the following questions to learn more about the potential risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial:

  • How could this clinical trial benefit my health if I join?
  • What are the possible risks if I decide to participate in the trial?
  • What are the possible side effects of the new treatment?
  • How likely is it that I will experience these side effects?
  • How likely is it that I will receive the treatment being studied, and how likely is it that I will receive a placebo or standard care instead?
  • What happens if my condition worsens while I am participating in the trial?
  • How do the possible risks and benefits of this trial compare to those of the standard treatment?
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Learn more about the potential risks and benefits of participating in clinical trials in our comprehensive guide.

Clinical Trial Benefits, Risks & Safety Considerations

Questions to ask about the safety of the trial

It's crucial to understand the potential risks associated with the study and the measures in place to ensure your safety during the trial. By understanding the safety measures in place, potential risks and adverse event management protocol, you can make an informed decision about your participation while minimizing risks to your well-being.

Consider asking the following questions to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the safety measures in place before deciding to participate in a clinical trial.

  • Who makes sure the trial is safe and properly run?
  • How will my safety be protected and monitored during the trial?
  • Who can I contact in an emergency?
  • What measures are in place to ensure the safety of all participants?
  • Who can I contact if I have concerns about my safety during the trial?
  • Am I covered by insurance if things go wrong?
  • Are there any measures in place to protect the privacy and confidentiality of my medical information?
  • Are there any drugs, supplements or medicines I shouldn't take while I am in the trial?
  • What is the protocol for managing adverse events during the trial

Questions about your rights

Participating in a clinical trial comes with certain rights and responsibilities. It's essential to know these rights and responsibilities as this understanding ensures that you are treated with respect, fairness, and dignity throughout the trial.

Some of the questions you might consider asking about your rights as a participant in a clinical trial to better understand what to expect and how to advocate for yourself during the trial could be:

  • What are my rights as a participant in this clinical trial?
  • How will my health information be kept private?
  • What information will I receive about the trial and my participation?
  • Will I be able to ask questions and receive answers throughout the trial?
  • Can I access my personal health information during and after the trial?
  • What happens if I experience harm or injury as a result of participating in the trial?
  • Who can I contact if I have concerns or questions about my rights during the trial?
  • Can I leave the trial if I want to?
  • What happens if I decide to leave the trial?
  • What is the informed consent process for the clinical trial?

What is informed consent?

  • The informed consent process involves obtaining information about a clinical trial's key facts to allow participants to decide whether they want to participate or not.
  • It's important to follow the informed consent process to ensure that potential participants fully comprehend the study's objectives, potential benefits and risks of participation, as well as any other options available to them.

Questions about comparing choices

Having a clear understanding of the available treatment options and the potential benefits and risks of each option is essential to making the right decision when searching for clinical trial options.

These questions could help you better understand the differences between participating in a clinical trial and other treatment options and might help you make a more informed decision about your health care.

  • How does participating in a clinical trial compare and differ from receiving standard medical treatment?
  • What are the available treatment options for my condition?
  • How long will each treatment option take?
  • What happens if one treatment option does not work? Are there other options available?
  • What is the likelihood of success with each treatment option?
  • How does the treatment I would receive in this trial compare with the other treatment choices?

Questions about the treatment given during the clinical trial

One important aspect to consider when deciding whether or not to participate in a clinical trial is the treatment that will be provided.

Asking these questions might help you get a better understanding of what kind of care you will receive and how it may differ from standard medical treatment.

  • What kind of treatment will be provided during the trial?
  • How is the treatment given?
  • How frequently will I need to receive the treatment?
  • What is known about the new treatment or procedure?
  • Will I get better treatment if I agree to enter a trial?
  • How is the trial treatment different?
  • Will the treatment benefit me?
  • What are the potential side effects or risks associated with the treatment?
  • What happens if I experience adverse effects from the treatment?
    Will I be able to continue receiving the treatment after the trial has ended?

Questions about daily life

Participating in a clinical trial may involve changes to your daily routine and lifestyle. These questions will not only help you prepare for any potential changes, but also ensure that you are able to meet the requirements of the trial.

  • How could the trial affect my daily life, including work, family, and other obligations?
  • How often will I have to come to the hospital or clinic?
  • Will I have to stay in the hospital during the clinical trial? If so, how often and for how long?
  • How far will I need to travel to take part in the trial?
  • Will I have check-ups after the trial? If so, how many and how time-consuming will this be?
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Read more about how time consuming clinical trials may be in our detailed guide.

How Long Do Clinical Trials Take? Understanding Clinical Trial Timelines

Practical concerns to consider

Participating in a clinical trial may bring up practical considerations that require attention both before and during the trial.

By asking these questions, you can gain a clearer understanding of what to expect and how to prepare for any potential obstacles that may arise during the trial.

  • Will I need to adjust my medication schedule or other health treatments during the trial?
  • Are there any dietary restrictions or lifestyle changes I need to follow during the trial?
  • How will the trial affect my access to healthcare services outside of the trial?
  • What type of long-term follow-up care is part of this study?
  • How will I manage the logistics of the trial, such as scheduling visits and taking medication as directed?
  • Can I still participate in the trial if I have other medical appointments or procedures scheduled?
  • What happens if I need to miss a study visit or skip a dose of medication?
  • Will I have access to a study coordinator or someone I can contact if I have any questions or concerns during the trial?

Questions about costs

One common concern for many people considering participation in a clinical trial is the potential cost involved, as medical research can often be expensive. These costs may include fees for medical procedures, laboratory tests, and any other healthcare services related to the trial. Additionally, participants may need to factor in travel costs, such as gas or transportation expenses, as well as any time off from work that may be necessary for appointments or procedures.

By asking these questions, you could better understand what expenses you may be responsible for and what costs will be covered by the study.

  • What expenses will I be responsible for during the trial?
  • Will the study cover the cost of any treatments, medications, or medical procedures needed during the trial?
  • Are there any hidden costs that I should be aware of?
  • Will I be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses related to the study, such as travel costs or lost wages?
  • What costs will my health insurance cover?
  • Who can help answer questions from my insurance company?
  • Can I still participate in the trial if I do not have insurance or if my insurance does not cover certain treatments or procedures?
  • Will I be penalized or removed from the trial if I cannot afford certain expenses?
  • Will I be required to pay for any follow-up care or medical treatment after the trial is over?
  • Who pays if I’m injured in the trial?
  • Who can I talk with about costs and payments?


In conclusion, participating in clinical trials not only contributes to medical advancements but also offers the opportunity for personal growth and potential breakthroughs in healthcare, and asking the right questions before participating in a clinical trial is crucial for making an informed decision about your involvement.

By understanding the study's purpose, design, eligibility requirements, potential risks and benefits, and practical considerations, you can assess whether the trial aligns with your needs and goals. This knowledge empowers you to weigh the potential benefits against the potential risks, ensuring that your participation aligns with your health needs and personal circumstances.

Remember, don't hesitate to seek clarification and consult with healthcare professionals to make the best decision for your well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will I be asked to take part in more than one trial?

In addition to participating in a treatment trial, your doctor may invite you to participate in a separate study focused on managing side effects or understanding the impact of treatments on your daily life and activities.

This could also involve other activities, such as completing questionnaires or participating in interviews as requested by the researchers.

Will my family doctor be informed about my participation in a clinical trial?

In some cases, your hospital doctor or researcher may reach out to your general practitioner (GP) to inform them of your participation in a clinical trial. The necessity of this communication depends on the specific trial, and it may not always be required.

However, you might also be advised to seek advice from your GP regarding your decision to participate in the trial, should you choose to do so.

What if I am worried about an unusual reaction during the trial?

In the event that you or your family doctor become concerned about an unexpected or unfamiliar reaction during your participation in a clinical trial, it is important to reach out to the research team. Their contact information should be readily available to you, and you should not hesitate to communicate any worries or questions you may have.

It is crucial to maintain open lines of communication with the research team, as they are equipped to address any concerns, provide guidance, and ensure your safety throughout the trial. Remember, your well-being is of utmost importance, and immediate contact with the research team allows for swift evaluation and appropriate actions to be taken.

What if something goes wrong during the treatment?

Throughout the course of your treatment, close observation is maintained to ensure your safety and well-being, minimizing any potential risks or dangers. If you experience a serious reaction, whether it be in response to the new treatment or a standard treatment, there are mandatory safeguards in place in clinical trials to ensure appropriate action will be taken to promptly halt the treatment.

Additional tests and monitoring might also be conducted as precautionary measures to safeguard you from any possible effects that may arise due to the new treatment being administered. The priority remains your safety, and any adverse reactions are taken seriously to ensure the best possible care is provided.

What if new information about the treatment becomes available?

As a participant, you have the right to be kept up-to-date with any relevant updates, findings, or advancements related to the study. This communication ensures that you are well-informed about the progress of the trial and any implications it may have on your treatment.

By staying informed, you can actively engage in discussions with your doctor or researcher, ask questions, and make informed decisions regarding your participation in the trial.

Transparency and open communication are vital components in the patient-researcher relationship, promoting trust and ensuring that you are well-informed throughout the trial process.

What happens to information gathered for the trial?

Any personal information collected during clinical trials will be handled with the utmost care and privacy. It is important to note, however, that certain data may be shared with the sponsoring company or organization responsible for the study.

Nevertheless, your identity will remain anonymous, as you will not be named in any published articles or reports disclosing the trial's results unless otherwise specified, and agreed to by you - the participant. The confidentiality of your information and your privacy as a participant should be highly respected throughout clinical trials and subsequent publications. This is a requirement of patient privacy laws, including HIPAA.

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