Phase 4 trials are the most advanced clinical trials.
Phase 4 trials are the most advanced clinical trials. They can be used to test side effects, effectiveness in different populations (e.g., people with certain medical conditions), and effectiveness for different illnesses or types of use.
Phase 4 trials are done after a drug or device has been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). The FDA requires that companies continue their research even after a product is approved, so that they can gather more information about it.
These studies are done after a drug’s been approved for use.
The purpose of phase 4 studies is similar to phase 3 trials: to monitor for adverse effects, study drug interactions, and evaluate the effectiveness of a drug. But unlike phase 3 trials, these studies are done after a drug has already been approved for use by the FDA. And unlike the first three phases, which are required by the FDA in order to get approval, phase 4 studies are not required—a company can choose to do them voluntarily in order to learn more about a particular medication.
Phase 4 trials may be done for several reasons. For example, if a drug is being prescribed primarily for people 60 or older and it works well as an anti-depressant during this age range but also has some negative side effects that only occur when it’s used at an older age (like 70 or 80), then conducting a long-term study would help researchers understand how safe and effective the medication really is over time.
The main goals are to determine if a drug is safe when used over a longer period of time and to figure out if it can be used to treat other conditions.
To figure out if a drug is safe for use over a long period of time and to determine whether it can be used to treat other conditions, the main goals of phase 4 clinical trials are:
- To assess whether or not the drug is safe for long-term use
- To assess the safety and effectiveness of off-label uses of an approved drug (off-label means using a drug in ways that aren’t approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)
For example, I’m currently participating in a phase 4 clinical trial called the Antidepressant Use and Continuation Study designed to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) when used for depression. Although these drugs are all approved for treating depression, we’re also looking at their effects when used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias.
Phase 4 trials are the final step before a drug is made available for widespread use
Phase 4 clinical trials are the final stage of drug development before making a drug available for widespread use. They take place after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the drug to be on the market. Phase 4 trials are conducted to evaluate long-term safety, side effects, and efficacy. They may last several years or even decades since some side effects only occur after a long period of time. The FDA can request that companies conduct additional safety studies after a drug is on the market through Phase 4 trials.
These studies also test if a drug can be used to treat other conditions in addition to those described in its original approval, also called an indication. For example, patients with terminal cancer who participated in earlier stages of chemotherapy research may participate again in Phase 4 clinical trial research to test new treatments for life-threatening conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease.