The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires strict testing before a new drug is approved for use. A clinical trial is a way for researchers to study new tests, treatments, or methods of using current treatments. Studies are carefully designed, and safety is the highest priority.

Researchers must study rheumatoid arthritis (RA) medications to determine if they’re safe and effective. Sometimes, researchers also test previously approved drugs at new doses or in combination with other drugs.

Participants in clinical trials are volunteers. Participants may leave the clinical trial at any time. Some clinical trials are initially performed on healthy people, to determine the safety of a treatment. Most clinical trials involve patients with a target condition like RA.

Each clinical trial is looking for a particular type of patient. The criteria differ from study to study. For example, you may not qualify to participate in some clinical trials if you have health conditions in addition to RA.

Certain trials may be only interested in newly diagnosed people. Other trials may be looking at those with an advanced stage of the disease. Some trials may want patients who are already taking methotrexate, while some may exclude people taking methotrexate.

Clinical trials are an important part of discovering new RA treatments that address symptoms or help slow the progression of the disease. You may gain access to the latest treatments before they become widely available. Participating will advance medical knowledge and potentially help future patients with RA.

Comparing new and old treatments is important in clinical trials. For example, in the ATTRACT trial of the drug infliximab, patients receiving infliximab were compared to patients receiving the standard treatment of methotrexate. This contrast showed that infliximab had a benefit for RA patients beyond what methotrexate treatments already did. There is no guarantee that participating in a clinical trial will give you access to a new therapy. You may receive a standard treatment or a placebo instead.

Keep in mind that clinical trials require close monitoring. This may require doctor visits, medical testing, and frequent travel. Side effects from these new medications are possible too.

Some recent clinical trials for RA include: