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, 7 (1), e5

The Internet and Clinical Trials: Background, Online Resources, Examples and Issues


The Internet and Clinical Trials: Background, Online Resources, Examples and Issues

James Paul et al. J Med Internet Res.


Both the Internet and clinical trials were significant developments in the latter half of the twentieth century: the Internet revolutionized global communications and the randomized controlled trial provided a means to conduct an unbiased comparison of two or more treatments. Large multicenter trials are often burdened with an extensive development time and considerable expense, as well as significant challenges in obtaining, backing up and analyzing large amounts of data. Alongside the increasing complexities of the modern clinical trial has grown the power of the Internet to improve communications, centralize and secure data as well as to distribute information. As more and more clinical trials are required to coordinate multiple trial processes in real time, centers are turning to the Internet for the tools to manage the components of a clinical trial, either in whole or in part, to produce lower costs and faster results. This paper reviews the historical development of the Internet and the randomized controlled trial, describes the Internet resources available that can be used in a clinical trial, reviews some examples of online trials and describes the advantages and disadvantages of using the Internet to conduct a clinical trial. We also extract the characteristics of the 5 largest clinical trials conducted using the Internet to date, which together enrolled over 26000 patients.

Conflict of interest statement

None declared.


Figure 1
Figure 1
Cumulative number of randomized control trials (RCTs) versus online RCTs (based on Medline and Old Medline searches from 1950) on a logarithmic scale over time
Figure 2
Figure 2
Example of a 3-tier architecture in an online clinical trial system

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