Clinical trials - Woman in labMedicinal products need to have a marketing authorisation granted before they can be sold or supplied to patients. Before this authorisation is granted, information about the product is assessed to ensure that it is safe and effective and also that the quality of the product is sufficient.

Clinical trials are undertaken to allow data on the safety and efficacy of new products to be collected. These trials can be conducted using healthy volunteers or patients, depending on the type of product and its stage of development. Information on the non-clinical safety will have been obtained before the clinical trial programme commences.

Clinical trials begin with small studies in a controlled population of healthy volunteers or patients and, as data are gathered, expand to large scale studies in patients. These large scale studies will often investigate the new product and the currently used treatment to see how these two compare. As information is obtained, larger numbers of patients are exposed to the new product and safety data can be collected showing the safety of the product in the intended patient population.

The Clinical Trials Unit is part of the Licensing Division of the Medicines branch of the MHRA. The role of the Unit is to assess applications from sponsors to conduct clinical trials with medicinal products. The types of trials assessed range from first-in-man studies for new compounds to studies with products which already have marketing authorisations.

The interactive flow diagram below provides a general overview of the process involved in obtaining a clinical trial authorisation (CTA):

Is a clinical trial authorisation (CTA) required?

Yes      No

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Can I use the notification scheme? 

Yes      No

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Page last modified: 05 April 2011