Why Clinical Trials are Important for Health Care Research – and You, the Patient

Dr. Bryn Robinson, Research Engagement Manager, Horizon

When I first started working with Horizon’s Office of Research Services almost five years ago, I was amazed to learn there were hundreds of research studies being done at any given time by our clinicians, nurses, pharmacists and allied health professionals in our organization.

These studies are looking at everything – from new ways to repair and replace heart valves, to testing a new drug on its own versus in combination with additional, existing medications, for aggressive prostate cancer, to evaluating a new sensory tool for seats of people with spinal cord injuries to prevent pressure ulcers.

Recently, I became Horizon’s Research Engagement Manager, and a significant part of my role is finding ways to raise awareness about clinical research here at Horizon.

Many of our studies are clinical trials, and since we began research engagement and outreach, we’ve quickly learned there are still a lot of public misconceptions about clinical trials – including their safety.

While a study may evaluate a bold approach to treatment, all research at Horizon undergoes a high degree of review and oversight. Horizon’s Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) reviews all research first through our Research Services Office to ensure the study meets all relevant standards and legislation, as well as ensuring researchers have appropriate methods and statistics to collect and assess data.

Any study proposing a new treatment – be it a new drug or a new way of using an existing drug – must be reviewed and approved by Health Canada, too; we make sure those approvals are in place, or help the team apply for approvals.

Once these steps of the review are complete, we forward the study to Horizon’s Research Ethics Board for review and final approval.

Did You Know?

While Human Research Protection Programs (HRPPs) are more common in the United States, our HRPP is unique to our health authority; in fact, it is the only integrated program of institutional review and approval for health research in Canada.

When I’m Participating, What Exactly Do I Have to Do?

To participate in a clinical trial, you first have to meet the criteria set within that study. Sometimes, studies need healthy volunteers; other times, people with a certain medical condition are invited to participate. You do not need a referral from your primary care provider, but they will be notified that you are taking part in a clinical trial.

How much time it will take to participate varies, too. A study may ask you to wear a device or use an app on your phone to record your physical activity, or complete a survey online. Or, a study looking at a new medication may require you to come to a clinic to receive the drug and have staff monitor you afterwards. You do not have to live nearby to participate (and studies will usually help to offset some costs involved in travelling to participate).

All of this information, and more, is presented to you at the start of the study by the research team, through an informed consent process. You should know exactly what is being asked of you, and when and why – ask questions of the study team before you agree to participate!

Celebrating Clinical Trials at Horizon

Lauren Cook, a clinical research assistant in our office specializing in patient engagement, and I began performing community outreach through activities such as Clinical Trials Day. At this event, we celebrate participants’ and researchers’ contributions to improving health care through research, while highlighting clinical research as a fulfilling career choice.

This year, Clinical Trials Day was celebrated globally on Monday, May 20. We’ve decided to hold three outreach events this year to celebrate. The first was May 9 in Fredericton at Horizon’s Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and the two upcoming ones are:

  • May 22 in Miramichi at Horizon’s Miramichi Regional Hospital; and
  • May 23 in Saint John at the Market Square Atrium

Why Take Part in a Clinical Trial?

Because clinical trials can involve testing new drugs or procedures before they are publicly available, by participating in a trial you may help researchers find better treatment options for others in the future. Or perhaps you are interested in health, and want to volunteer your time and information to help improve healthcare in New Brunswick.

Whatever your reasons, take time to think over the information and discuss any concerns you may have, to make sure it is the right decision for you and your health.


If you are interested in learning more, please stop by one of our events next week!

Or, get in touch via our website. Among other information, you can sign up for our research registry, A Cure is on the Horizon, through which you will be alerted to clinical trials. You can also learn about other volunteer opportunities to help contribute to #ResearchAtHorizon.