Barbara: "I don't want to do the clinical trial. What if I'm the one who gets the sugar pill?" Cooper: "Yeah, I mean all that time and energy for nothing?" Dr. Theo: "Great question. Even when clinical trials are going to be using placebo, there are ways to design a trial to make sure that patients will get an active treatment - a real treatment - for the condition either right in the beginning or within a few weeks of starting the trial. Let me give you two examples: There are some trials where you will get study drug or placebo, but if the patient's not doing well after say 10 weeks, they're guaranteed of getting study drug automatically. Here is a second possibility very commonly used in cancer trials: All the patients will get established study treatment that's out there - so everybody's getting standard of care - some patients will (in addition) get a boost with study drug while others will get placebo. One other thing we can do to make sure that more patients actually get the boost rather than the placebo: For example, 2/3 of the patients may get the study drug and only 1/3 get the placebo."
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