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Home » Clinical Trials » Designing Clinical Trials: Listening to, and Learning From, Clinical Trial Participants

Medical breakthroughs wouldn’t be possible without the people who participate in clinical trial research every year. Traditionally, scientists and researchers design the studies to test investigational medicines and therapies for people who are living with a disease. But now, patients have a bigger role in the process: helping guide the design.

“Some ideas can only be uncovered by learning from, and listening to, people who live with their conditions every day,” says Ricardo Rojo, global clinical lead at Pfizer, a biopharmaceutical company that is one of the world’s largest sponsors of clinical trials. 

Pfizer works closely with patients and patient advocacy groups so that they are a part of drafting clinical trial designs. Researchers know that it’s important to try to make the process as comfortable and convenient as possible for the study participants. 

“We try to think from the vantage point of our participants,” says Judy Sewards, vice president, head of clinical trial experience for Pfizer. “We’re grateful to them for participating. They make significant contributions,and their voice in clinical trials is central and influential for us as we develop new medicines.”  


Lisa Butler, vice president of strategic partnerships at the National Eczema Association (NEA), says this engaged approach to research is inspiring hope within the eczema community, which has an urgent need for more effective treatments. Through the NEA, people living with eczema have done small focus groups with Pfizer, and the feedback has been positive.

“Patients were able to be involved, share their story, and see that they actually made a difference, not just for themselves, but for potential patients in the future,” says Butler.

For example, for one study, the initial protocol design required that participants not treat their eczema for seven days, a standard “washout period” before introducing an investigational therapy. However, patients said this was too long a time for them to be off their medicine because the symptoms of their skin disease could worsen. As a result of this feedback, the team shortened the “washout period.” They also addressed other needs raised, such as adding more information about the study and streamlining patient paperwork.

“Hearing firsthand from patients not only motivates us by reminding us why our work is so important, it also helps us study many of the outcomes that matter most to them,” says Rojo.

To learn more about clinical research at Pfizer or find a clinical trial that may be right for you, visit  

Kristen Castillo, [email protected]

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