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Medical Research Vocabulary

As you learn more about medical research studies, there are a few words you will probably hear to describe parts of the study, such as:
  • Protocol
  • Placebo
  • Double-blind, or double-masked.
A protocol is the set of rules that a research study must follow. The protocol describes what will take place during the study, who can participate, and how long the study is expected to last. It also includes a schedule of the tests and procedures that will be done during the study, and what treatments or medications will be given.
A placebo is an inactive pill or other treatment that has no real effect on a person's condition. In some research studies, one group of people will receive a placebo while another group receives a new drug. The effects of the new drug are compared to those of the placebo to study the safety and effectiveness of the new drug.
In a double-blind or double-masked study, neither the study volunteer nor the Study Doctor knows whether the patient is receiving the new drug, the standard medication, or a placebo. This prevents the expectations of the patient and the Study Doctor from influencing the results of the study.
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