International Clinical Trials day 2021

May 20th is International Clinical Trials day. Research has been in the news a great deal recently.  Vaccines have been developed very quickly and information shared about Covid-19 from clinicians. This is all because of teams of researchers working around the world have used their skills to increase our knowledge about this virus.

What is International Clinical Trials day?

It marks the first ever known clinical trial. in 1747, James Lind  was a surgeon on a ship and was shocked by how ill the crew became during long journeys. He wanted to find a cure for their illness and set up a comparative trial to see if he could find a cure.

What did the trial involve?

He took 12 men suffering from similar symptoms of scurvy, divided them into six pairs and treated them with remedies suggested by previous writers:

  • a quart of cider a day
  • 25 drops of elixir of vitriol, three times a day
  • half a pint of sea-water a day
  • a nutmeg-sized paste of garlic, mustard seed, horse-radish, balsam of Peru, and gum myrrh three times a day
  • two spoonfuls of vinegar, three times a day
  • two oranges and one lemon a day

What were the results?

After just 1 week, those that were given the citrus fruits were much better and were able to help look after the others.

How is it relevant today?

It was the start of using evidence based medicine. Trials today seem far more complicated, but are still dividing people into groups and giving different treatments. Often a placebo is used so that neither the researcher of patient knows if they are taking the active drug or not. This is to avoid and bias and give a true result and is called a double blind, placebo controlled trial. In some trials they are “open label” where both patient and researcher knows what is being taken. You also can have single blind trials, where only the patient doesn’t know what they are taking.

What was wrong with his trial?

By today’s standards many things! Informed consent being one of the most important parts of our practice today. Freedom to withdraw from a trial as well and to have the study reviewed by an independent ethics committee. The results also have to be peer reviewed and data checked. There are many more things as well, but it was a great starting point.

And what was right?

He did it to help people, which is why we do research, in an organised way and recorded the results.  At the end of the trial everyone had the treatment that worked!

Read our published research here

More about International Clinical Trials day

For more about James Lind, Please visit the James Lind Library.