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NIH Definition of Clinical Trial

Please note that the following information is a DRAFT and has not yet been fully approved by the Office of Intramural Research (OIR).

The NIH revised the former definition of Clinical Trial. The new definition and resources - a decision tree, FAQs, and series of case studies – are designed to help investigators determine which studies require results reporting and which are exempt.

A research study in which one or more human subjects are prospectively assigned to one or more interventions (which may include placebo or other control) to evaluate the effects of those interventions on health-related biomedical or behavioral outcomes.

Clinical Trial Decision Tree
Dated: October 23, 2014

  1. See Common Rule definition of “research” at 45 CFR 46.102(d).
  2. See Common Rule definition of “human subject” at 45 CFR 46.102(f).
  3. The term “prospectively assigned” refers to a pre-defined process (e.g., randomization) specified in an approved protocol that stipulates the assignment of research subjects (individually or in clusters) to one or more arms (e.g., intervention, placebo, or other control) of a clinical trial.
  4. An “intervention” is defined as a manipulation of the subject or subject’s environment for the purpose of modifying one or more health-related biomedical or behavioral processes and/or endpoints. Examples include: drugs/small molecules/compounds; biologics; devices; procedures (e.g., surgical techniques); delivery systems (e.g., telemedicine, face-to-face interviews); strategies to change health-related behavior (e.g., diet, cognitive therapy, exercise, development of new habits); treatment strategies; prevention strategies; and, diagnostic strategies.
  5. A “health-related biomedical or behavioral outcome” is defined as the pre-specified goal(s) or condition(s) that reflect the effect of one or more interventions on human subjects’ biomedical or behavioral status or quality of life. Examples include: positive or negative changes to physiological or biological parameters (e.g., improvement of lung capacity, gene expression); positive or negative changes to psychological or neurodevelopmental parameters (e.g., mood management intervention for smokers; reading comprehension and /or information retention); positive or negative changes to disease processes; positive or negative changes to health-related behaviors; and, positive or negative changes to quality of life.

The page was last updated on Saturday, December 12, 2015 - 10:16am