Why Celebrate Clinical Trials Day?
Clinical Trials Day, celebrated on May 20 each year, was created to raise clinical trial awareness and honor clinical researchers around the world who dedicate their careers to enhancing our knowledge of physical and mental diseases, finding treatments and cures for those diseases, advancing and driving both public health and private healthcare policy, and relieving suffering.
The history of clinical trials
A Clinical Trials Day, launched in 2014 by the Association of Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP), is observed on May 20 to mark the anniversary of the day in 1747 when James Lind, a Scottish physician and surgeon in the British Royal Navy, conducted the first documented randomized clinical study.
Lind served on the H.M.S. Salisbury at a time when sailors were frequently sickened, debilitated, and even killed by scurvy, particularly on long sea voyages. Scurvy is mainly caused by a vitamin C deficiency, though in the 1800s, no one knew that.
Due to his observations of seamen with scurvy on his ship, he suspected a new cause and possible treatment, but in order to get proof he had to test his theory. Gathering 12 affected sailors, Lind administered six different treatments, with two men receiving each type of treatment for 14 days. One of the treatments included citrus fruits. At the end of the 14 days, Lind recorded, the sailors who received citrus fruit experienced the fastest and most markèd improvement.
Other trial firsts followed, including the first multi-person crossover trial, conducted by English physician Caleb Parry in 1786, and an early randomized clinical trial conducted by William Fletcher in 1905 at the Kuala Lumpur Lunatic Asylum.
Why clinical trials are so important
Clinical trials are one of the most successful means for determining which medications or other therapies can prevent, heal, delay, or cure a specific illness, or otherwise improve bodily function and health.
(Clinical trials are key to saving lives of, and improving the quality of life for, billions of people worldwide each year.)
While certain gains can be made in the lab and through preclinical (animal-based) studies, there is no better way to discover how a given treatment will behave in human beings than by testing it on human volunteers.
Clinical trials help ascertain a treatment’s:
- Safety for widespread human use
- Effectiveness for the intended population, regardless of therapy type
- Effectiveness in terms of composition, method of administration, and dosage, if a drug
- Potential side effects, and their degrees of severity and tolerability (benefits v. risks)
From measles, flu, and polio vaccines to treatments for hypertension, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, clinical trials have resulted in thousands of preventions and therapies—and millions of lives saved—worldwide, including more than 19,000 FDA-approved drug therapies in the U.S. alone.
Fast facts about clinical trials
The people who volunteer to participate in clinical trials are critical to developing and discovering new and better ways to improve the lives of people with acute, chronic, and even terminal illnesses and conditions.
Many people are unaware, however, of how clinical trials are run, what they have to offer, and where to find them. Here are some fast facts about clinical trials.
- Clinical trials are completely voluntary; even after you’ve signed up and started the trial, you can withdraw at any time and for any reason.
- Trials may be testing either a new, experimental drug or therapy, or an existing, approved drug for a new use.
- In certain trials, you may receive either the experimental drug or an inert placebo, and you won’t necessarily know which one you’re receiving.
- You’re likely to have to meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for participation in any given trial; the criteria may include an age range, lifestyle habits, disease symptoms, family history of a specified disease, or lack thereof, etc.
- Tests done for a clinical trial, along with any treatment you receive, are provided at no cost to you; you may even receive a small stipend or have your transportation costs covered, depending on the study.
- To find clinical trials that may be appropriate for you, you can do a general browser search or go to clinicaltrials.gov, where you can find trials taking place around the globe.
(Clinical trials are completely voluntary; even after you’ve signed up and started the trial, you can withdraw at any time and for any reason.)
Clinical trials are key to saving lives of, and improving the quality of life for, billions of people worldwide each year. If you’ve ever taken a pill for a headache, received insulin, or been prescribed an antibiotic, you can thank clinical trials and the dedicated professionals who run them, analyze the data, and write the reports for review. To them we say Thank you, and happy Clinical Trials Day!
Responsum Health recruits participants for various clinical trials conducted in the U.S. Join one of our member communities or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram to find out about current and upcoming opportunities.