INSIGHT: Clinical Trials in Multiple Sclerosis


What are clinical trials?

Have you ever wondered how new medications and treatments are approved in Canada? Typically, the process starts with a hypothesis or idea that is tested in a laboratory using cells and animal models. If the idea shows promise as a potential treatment in pre-clinical studies, it is then tested in humans in clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies, involving human participants, that are designed to test the safety and efficacy of new or existing interventions (i.e., drug, exercise, diet, diagnostic technique, surgical procedure) in improving a certain disease condition, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). There are four phases of a clinical trial, each phase assesses different outcomes, including drug dosage, safety, efficacy, tolerability, benefits, and risks.

To learn more about clinical trials read Introduction to Clinical Trials.

Why are clinical trials important?

Currently, there are 19 MS disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) approved by Health Canada. A number of therapeutic candidates are in various phases of development for all types of MS. For Health Canada to approve a new treatment, the manufacturer of the treatment must provide phase 3 clinical trial data to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the treatment within the population for which it is being investigated. There are a number of potentially promising MS therapies in phase 2 and phase 3 clinical trials. Learn more about Treatments in Development.

How can I participate in clinical trials?

Choosing to participate in a clinical trial is voluntary. Many people find it rewarding to advance scientific research in their disease area. Others have not had successful results with currently approved treatments for MS and would like an opportunity to try an investigational treatment. When choosing to participate in a clinical trial, it is important to read and understand the study protocol, discuss eligibility with your healthcare team, and ask critical questions about risks and benefits in order to make an informed decision.

The following are some links to find clinical trials in Canada:

  • Health Canada Clinical Trial Search – a search tool to assist Canadians in finding specific information on a clinical trial related to their medical condition.
  • – a public database by the U.S. National Library of Medicine of clinical trials from around the world.
  • Clinical Trials Ontario Search Tool – a search tool to assist Canadians in finding clinical trials across Canada (not only Ontario) that are relevant to their medical condition.
  • Clinical Trials Quebec – a bilingual, free, and user-friendly search tool to assist patients and caregivers residing in Quebec in their search for clinical trials.

How can I participate in other MS-related research studies?

In addition to the above search tools, the MS Society of Canada posts research studies open to Canadian participants on the Research Portal. Researchers may apply to have their research study posted on the Research Portal to assist with study recruitment. Once an application is approved by their institutional research and ethics board, the study may be shared on this site. The Research Portal does not post studies or trials from pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies, marketing research firms, or other for-profit enterprises.

Where can I get more information on clinical trials?

For more information on clinical trials and how to participate, visit the MS Society of Canada’s page on Introduction to Clinical Trials for additional resources.

Disclaimer: The MS Society is an independent, voluntary health agency and does not approve, endorse, or recommend any specific product or therapy but provides information to assist individuals in making their own decisions. For specific information and advice, please consult your personal physician. Read our full privacy policy.