Phases of Drug Trials

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Journalists who report on drugs while they are still in clinical trials need to understand the distinction between Phases I, II, and III of drug trials. It is misleading to report bold or conclusive statements about how well a drug works when it is only in Phase I trials, since the primary goal of Phase I trials is to evaluate how safe a drug is, not how well it works. (See this simple guide to clinical trials.)

But many times journalists report on early phase drug trials as if all the evidence is in hand. (See “How the media left the evidence out in the cold.“)

The Association of Health Care Journalists advises its members to “give accurate portrayals of the status of investigational drugs, devices and procedures, including significant caveats and explanations of hurdles, unknowns and potential problems.”

If consumers see or hear stories that don’t carry such caveats, they should have doubts about the accuracy and balance of the story.


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