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Healthy Volunteers

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Clinical research and medical discovery depend on volunteers who participate in clinical research studies.

A couple hugging.What's a "healthy volunteer?"
Someone with no known significant health problems who participates in research to test a new drug, device, or intervention is a "healthy volunteer" or "Clinical Research Volunteer".

Research participants include healthy volunteers and patient volunteers.
Healthy volunteers provide researchers with crucial data because their health information can be used as a comparison. In some studies, researchers need to compare healthy volunteers with people who have a specific disease or condition. Research with healthy volunteers is designed to develop new knowledge, not to provide direct benefit to study participants.

Healthy volunteers have always played a vital role in medical research. When developing a new technique such as a blood test or imaging device, we need clinical research volunteers to help us define the limits of "normal."

These volunteers are recruited to serve as controls for patient groups. They are often matched to patients on such characteristics as age, gender, or family relationship. They are then given the same test, procedure, or drug the patient group receives. Investigators learn about the disease process by comparing the patient group to the clinical research volunteers.

Why are healthy volunteers needed for clinical research?
There are many reasons. When developing a new technique such as a blood test or imaging device, we need clinical research volunteers to help define the limits of "normal." Healthy volunteers are often matched to patients so that certain characteristics such as age, gender, or family relationship, are similar. Healthy volunteers are given the same test, procedure, or drug that the patient group receives. Investigators learn about the disease process by comparing the patient group to the clinical research volunteers.

How can I volunteer?
One way to volunteer is to join the registry for the Clinical Research Volunteer Program. The program, created in 1995, is a resource that helps match potential research volunteers to clinical research studies at the NIH Clinical Center. To participate in the registry, we'll ask you to provide some basic information and give us permission to share that information with the research teams. If you are a potential match to a study's requirements, the study team will contact you.

How do I enroll myself or my child?
You can contact us at 301-496-4763. Parents or guardians must call to register anyone under 18 years of age.

How do I find studies for healthy volunteers?
To find studies for healthy volunteers go to http://clinicalstudies.info.nih.gov/ and search for studies using the word healthy. When you select individual studies, carefully review the study overview and eligibility requirements. If you meet the eligibility requirements, call 1-800-411-1222 (TTY 1-866-411-1010). We can provide participation details on up to three studies a day.

Ask about joining our Clinical Research Volunteer Program registry. To participate in the registry, we'll ask you to provide some basic information and give us permission to share that information with the research teams. If you are a potential match to a study's requirements, the study team will contact you.

Choosing to participate in a clinical trial is an important personal decision. For more information and answers to frequently asked questions about participating in clinical research, visit http://www.cc.nih.gov/participate.shtml. Compensation may be provided.

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Page last updated: February 25, 2014