What Happens in Each Clinical Trial Phase [Infographic]

Before a potential new treatment reaches patients, it goes through vigorous testing both in the lab and in the clinic. For potential volunteers, it’s helpful to know what happens at every stage of the research process so you know where you fit in and what you can expect.

First, researchers test new drug compounds and medical devices in a lab setting, before people ever try the treatment.

Next, pharmaceutical and medical device companies must test the treatment in several clinical trial phases and then submit their findings to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. Even after approval, pharmaceutical companies are often interested in learning more about patients’ experiences with the the treatment and may continue to run trials.

The whole process can be confusing, so we put together this handy infographic to help clear up the journey a new treatment takes from a research lab to pharmacy shelves.


Taking part in a clinical trial is always a personal decision. Knowing the phase of the clinical trial you're interested in can help you know what to expect from participation, but it's important to ask other questions, too. For example, you may also have questions about the specific goal of the trial and how participation may impact your current treatment. It's also helpful to understand how long the trial is, what your site visits will be like, and what compensation may be available for participants.

Talk with your doctor and family members for help deciding whether a trial is right for you, and know that if you do decide to take part, you're always free to leave the trial at any time.

If you're ready to start your search, click “Match Me” below to answer a few questions and connect with clinical trials near you.