Last week we discussed the basics of what medical publishing is and why it’s important. Today I want to look at the actual substance of what’s being published. There are many different types of information that are published or presented in the medical community, including original research, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, case studies, review articles, editorials, and more. Of these types of medical publications, the most familiar and most common is the reporting of the methods and results of clinical studies, both observational studies and controlled clinical trials.
The purpose of these studies can vary but generally they fall into one of the following categories; assessing the safety or efficacy of a drug, device, procedure, or lifestyle; investigating or testing methods for identifying and diagnosing conditions; comparing interventions or care models; determining risk factors and effects of conditions; or determining methods for improving quality of life.
Clinical trials of drugs in particular consist of a major, multi-step research process that is highly regulated. These trials fall into one of 5 phases (from 0-4) which range from isolating and testing potentially useful compounds, to continued long-term studies of a drug’s safety and efficacy after it hits the market. To read more about these clinical trial phases, check out the FDA’s more detailed description here.
Also, if you’re interested in the kinds of clinical research being conducted or you’d like to be involved as a research participant, you can check out the U.S. clinical trials registry where researchers post information about their studies, recruit study participants, and even sometimes post their results for the public to see.