The aim was to identify theoretically expected as well as actually reported benefits from drug development and the importance of individual patient benefits compared to the collective benefits to society in general. Ethical guidelines require that clinical research involving humans offer the potential for benefit. A number of characteristics can be applied to define research benefit. Often benefit is categorized as being either direct or indirect. Indirect benefits can involve collective benefits for society rather than any benefits to the trial patient or subject. The purpose of this review was to examine which potential individual and societal benefits were mentioned as being expected in publications from government experts and which were mentioned in publications describing completed drug development trial results. Literature on research benefit was first identified by searching the PubMed database using several combinations of the key words benefit and clinical research. The search was limited to articles published in English. A Google search with the same combinations of key words but without any language limitation was then performed. Additionally, the reference lists of promising articles were screened for further thematically related articles. Finally, a narrative review was performed of relevant English- and German-language articles published between 1996 and 2016 to identify which of several potential benefits were either theoretically expected or which were mentioned in publications on clinical drug development trial results. The principal benefits from drug development discussed included 2 main types of benefit, namely individual benefits for the patients and collective benefits for society. Twenty-one of an overall total of 26 articles discussing theoretically expected benefits focused on individual patient benefits, whereas 17 out of 26 articles mentioned collective benefits to society. In these publications, the most commonly mentioned theoretically expected individual patient benefit was the chance to receive up-to-date care (38.1%). A general increase in knowledge about health care, treatments, or drugs (70.6%) was the most commonly mentioned theoretically expected benefit for society. In contrast, all 13 publications reporting actual benefits of clinical drug development trials focused on personal benefits and only 1 of these publications also mentioned a societal benefit. The most commonly mentioned individual benefit was an increased quality of life (53.9%), whereas the only mentioned collective benefit to society was a general gain of knowledge (100.0%). Both theoretically expected and actually reported benefits in the majority of the included publications emphasized the importance of individual patient benefits from drug development rather than the collective benefits to society in general. The authors of these publications emphasized the right of each individual patient or subject to look for and expect some personal benefit from participating in a clinical trial rather than considering societal benefit as a top priority. From an ethical point of view, the benefits each individual patient receives from his or her participation in a clinical trial might also be seen as a societal benefit, especially when the drug or device tested, if approved for marketing, would eventually be made available for other similar patients from the country in which the clinical trial was conducted.