Patient and Nurse

Living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is challenging, especially if standard treatments aren’t working to control your symptoms. If you’re struggling to find a successful long-term treatment, you might find help in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are how researchers test new IBD medicines that may help you and others in the IBD community.

Here’s more on what a clinical trial is, how you may benefit from participating in one, and whether you may be eligible.

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What Is a Clinical Trial?

Clinical trials are research studies designed to test the safety and effectiveness of new medicines and treatment options for patients. They’re an essential step in advancing the treatments of many diseases, including IBD. While the thought of joining a clinical trial might seem scary, it’s important to understand how they work.

It takes years of careful planning and testing to develop new medicines and treatments. Much of this early work takes place in a lab. Clinical trials are the last step before a new medicine becomes available to the public.

By the time a medicine is ready for a clinical trial, researchers have a good understanding of its benefits. An independent review committee also has agreed that the treatment’s benefits outweigh any serious risks.

In a clinical trial, a group of volunteers receive the treatment. They’re followed very closely by the medical team to see if it helps their symptoms or causes any side effects. When you take part in a clinical trial, you receive information about the test treatment beforehand — including any known risks.

For any clinical trial, safety is key — which means your health and well-being come first. The medical team monitors everyone who participates in a clinical trial. The goal is to make sure your symptoms and quality of life are improving.

It’s important to know that you are not required to finish a trial once you start. You can drop out if you and your medical team decide it’s not right for you.

Benefits for You and the IBD Community

Treatments for IBD have come a long way, but there’s still much to learn about this disease. A third of the people with IBD don’t respond to initial treatments, and a large percentage of people eventually stop responding to their medicine. Others experience severe side effects that prevent them from using certain medicines.

Clinical trials help identify new, more effective medicines with fewer side effects. When you take part in an IBD clinical trial, there’s a chance the test treatment will work for you. That’s good for you and the entire IBD community since many others will benefit.

With each trial, researchers learn more about IBD and how to treat it. You’ll receive expert medical care throughout the trial. As a result, you may learn more about your IBD and how to manage it.

Most importantly, each new medicine might be life changing for you or someone else who lives with IBD. By participating in a clinical trial, you’re partnering with scientists to find better treatments — and hopefully a cure — for IBD.

Who Can Join a Clinical Trial?

Each trial has different requirements, depending on the type of treatment being tested. Some trials look for candidates of a certain age or who have a certain type or severity of IBD. Others recruit people whose IBD has been resistant to specific medicines.

Not everyone with IBD will qualify for each clinical trial. It’s important to read through the trial requirements and talk to your doctor to see if you might qualify.

You might be a candidate for a clinical trial if:

  • Your IBD symptoms don’t improve with standard treatments.
  • You have severe side effects from standard medicines.
  • Your current medicines stop working.
  • Your IBD is worse, even with treatment.

If you’re interested in looking for a clinical trial, the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation has a Clinical Trial Finder with listings for several hundred clinical trials.

UPMC’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center participates in many clinical trials, so ask your doctor for more information.

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. Learn About Clinical Trials. Link

Crohn's & Colitis Foundation. Clinical Trials Community. Link

National Institutes of Health. NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Link

About Digestive Disorders

UPMC Digestive Health Care cares for a wide range of gastrointestinal (GI) conditions and diseases, from diagnosis to treatment. Whether your digestive condition is common or complicated, our experts can help. Upon referral from your physician, we coordinate your testing and treatment. If you have a complicated condition, we can refer you to one of UPMC’s digestive health centers of excellence. Find a GI doctor near you.