The Fascinating and Extensive History of Clinical Trials

Clinical trials have evolved significantly from their origins as simple observations and religious practices in ancient times. Gone are the days of trial and error; today’s clinical research and trials are highly organized and systematic, involving thorough studies and research before testing on living subjects. The history of clinical trials is not only lengthy and complex but also intimately connected to the rise and fall of civilizations.

The coronavirus pandemic brought clinical trials into the spotlight, increasing public awareness of their everyday practice and crucial role in developing the COVID-19 vaccine. In this article, we explore the fascinating history of clinical trials, from biblical times to the modern era.

From Biblical to Medieval

Clinical trials have been an intrinsic part of human history, with records of clinical trial-like experiments dating back to the Bible. Nebuchadnezzar II, King of Babylonia, ruled from 605 to 562 BC and reportedly conducted a dietary experiment to determine the health benefits of meat and wine versus legumes, which ultimately led him to expand his people’s diet to include legumes. In 1061, a famous scientist documented the first observational study on the effects of Shangdang ginseng, marking a significant milestone in the history of clinical trials. 

The concept of clinical trials is quite old, it was introduced and formalized by the Muslim philosopher and doctor of Persian origin, Avicenna, in 1025 in his encyclopedic work of medieval medicine, “Book of Medical Laws”. 

The Discovery of Dr. Lind

Dr. James Lind, a Scottish-born physician, is credited with conducting the first controlled clinical trial. To find the best treatment for scurvy, he tested various treatment plans on 12 sailors with the disease. He observed that patients who consumed lemons and oranges showed significant improvement. These findings led to the practice of equipping ships with a supply of citrus fruits.

The Introduction of Placebos

The use of placebos revolutionized clinical trial methodologies. Dr. Austin Flint, an American physician, designed a unique clinical study comparing an active treatment with a placebo for rheumatism patients. He provided 13 patients with an herbal extract rather than the standard remedy.

The Emergence of Modern Clinical Trials

The 1940s saw clinical research and trials come into their own. The first notable clinical trial happened in 1943. A British team of researchers did the first-ever double-blind clinical trial. In a double-blind trial, both the researcher and the patients are kept in the dark, unaware of which treatment is being given and who is receiving it The idea is the clinical trial will be less biased.

The first randomized clinical trial happened in 1946. The study was conducted in the United Kingdom. It was then handled by Sir Austin Bradford Hill. The epidemiologist devised the trial to study how streptomycin impacts pulmonary tuberculosis. Dr. Hill used a table of various numbers to select which patients would be on bed rest. The other patients were to be treated with antibiotics. Bed rest was also a must for these patients.

The study group didn’t know which patients would receive a particular treatment. Patients were also not informed they were part of the clinical trial steps. Information about the trial was often sealed in various envelopes. This practice is known as ‘allocation concealment.’ The process of ensuring that the involved parties remain unaware of the treatment assignments is referred to as ‘blinding.’

Dr. Hills’ idea of random treatment is now a critical element of modern clinical trials. This is because it has a control group. Blinding the participants is also a good touch. It also ensures researchers receive data that is accurate and honest.

The Rise of Contract Research Organizations (CROs)

Clinical research took a dramatic turn with the emergence of contract research organizations. A CRO does clinical trials and testing for various medical industries. There are different kinds of CROs. Many of these companies offer services like clinical trial planning and patient recruitment. They can also handle the data management and tracking of patients.

The forerunners of CROs were first created in the 1940s and 50s. Back then, they provided the animals to be studied or tested. Now, CROs are at the forefront of the development of essential medications.

Today, the clinical trial market is massive and lucrative. It’s expected to go beyond $84.43 billion by the time 2030 rolls around. There are many reasons for this. For one, there’s a rising demand for clinical trials in developing countries. There are also millions of new drugs currently in clinical trials. These tests will soon expand its market.

There’s no denying the importance of clinical trials and their impact on modern society. It’s only right then that we celebrate International Clinical Trials Day once a year. It’s a good way to pay homage to the intrepid researchers, nurses, and physicians. Let’s not forget the brave patients who volunteered throughout the centuries. We wouldn’t have discovered vaccines and other medications without them.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Clinical trials have existed for centuries and will continue to shape the future of medicine and treatment. Companies like Biotrial play a crucial role in this process, and you can contribute by participating in our current clinical trials. We protect your privacy and personal data, and you will be compensated for contributing to potentially life-saving research. Contact us at 844-246-8459 or email to learn more.

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