Clinical study design is the formulation of trials and experiments, as well as observational studies in medical, clinical and other types of research (e.g., epidemiological) involving human beings. The goal of a clinical study is to assess the safety, efficacy, and / or the mechanism of action of an investigational medicinal product (IMP) or procedure, or new drug or device that is in development, but potentially not yet approved by a health authority (e.g. Food and Drug Administration). It can also be to investigate a drug, device or procedure that has already been approved but is still in need of further investigation, typically with respect to long-term effects or cost-effectiveness.
Some of the considerations here are shared under the more general topic of design of experiments but there can be others, in particular related to patient confidentiality and ethics.
When choosing a study design, many factors must be taken into account. Different types of studies are subject to different types of bias. For example, recall bias is likely to occur in cross-sectional or case-control studies where subjects are asked to recall exposure to risk factors. Subjects with the relevant condition (e.g. breast cancer) may be more likely to recall the relevant exposures that they had undergone (e.g. hormone replacement therapy) than subjects who don't have the condition.
The ecological fallacy may occur when conclusions about individuals are drawn from analyses conducted on grouped data. The nature of this type of analysis tends to overestimate the degree of association between variables.
Conducting studies in seasonal indications (such as allergies, Seasonal Affective Disorder, influenza, and others) can complicate a trial as patients must be enrolled quickly. Additionally, seasonal variations and weather patterns can affect a seasonal study.