International Clinical Trials Day: How Pioneering Research is Shaping Our World Today

International Clinical Trials Day is celebrated annually on May 20th, to recognise both the revolutionary practices borne back in the 18th century that continue to influence and shape the clinical sphere, as well as new advancements and techniques that continue to drive the field forward.

Clinical trials have been in motion since 1747, and have since transformed both the wider medical world, and the ways in which we research and discover cures for medical conditions. 

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the criticality of clinical trials became rapidly apparent on an international basis. Regardless of your occupation, you’re likely to have followed the evolution of new treatments from pioneers including AstraZeneca and Pfizer. 

While we’ve come far from the practices borne back in the 18th century, International Clinical Trials Day serves as a valuable opportunity to highlight the journey we’ve taken in transforming clinical trials from their humble beginnings, to the pandemic-overhauling standard they occupy today, while reflecting on what tomorrow may bring.

Read on to discover:

  • The History of Clinical Trials
  • How Clinical Trials Adapted Over COVID
  • The Recruitment for Clinical Trials


The History of Clinical Trials

Why May 20th

In May 1747, the HMS Salisbury, of Britain’s Royal Navy fleet, set off to patrol the English Channel. Onboard was Lieutenant James Lind, the designated surgeon for the voyage. In a time when scurvy was capturing British seamen as prey, Lind, a pioneer of naval hygiene, believed the condition was caused by putrefaction of the body, and could be treated with citric acid. 

On May 20th he began conducting an experiment, now formally known as a clinical trial. Recruiting a dozen men onboard who had contracted scurvy, he set out to ostensibly test the belief that citrus fruit may be a possible cure. The selected men were given remedies expansively containing cider, elixir of vitriol, lemons, oranges, sea water and vinegar. The experiments went underway during the remainder of the month at sea. Once the HMS Salisbury had returned to base at Plymouth by the end of May, one-sixth of the men, the two prescribed citrus fruit, were cured. Although some criticise and speculate Lind’s examinations were not the start of clinical trials, they are confirmed to be the first to contain the factorisation of control groups.

Lind’s research holds its importance in modern day, as Clinical Trials continue to be a vital avenue to discovering treatments across healthcare. 

How clinical trials adapted over COVID

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, clinical trials became the leading way to discovering a reparative vaccine to protect ourselves and those around us as we began to filtrate back into the outside world. Their importance lies within their ability to discover new treatments for illnesses, while uncovering new processes that enable us to identify, diagnose, and lower the spread of said illness (if found contagious). Clinical trials enable researchers to test new medications and tools which provide a core logical foundation that can guide and care for patients. Additionally, clinical trials provide a route to falsify hypotheses, and forge new, more accurate ideas to improve treatment success .

Decentralised clinical trials (DCTs) have become an increasingly significant method of research within the past year. Due to hospital restrictions and stay-at-home regulations, researchers were left with restricted options for clinical trial recruitment during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus continued to drive a global demand for vaccination, as mortality rates grew. To meet these unique requirements, clinical trials had to rapidly adapt and decentralise at scale.

Decentralised trials offered pharmaceutical companies a way to simplify patient reporting - a key driving factor behind clinical trial retention. Unlike on-site trials, decentralised clinical trials allow patients to independently document their own daily apprises using their smartphones, or desktop devices. This enabled researchers to not only reduce retention rates but improve the scope and number of participants at scale, without compromising social distancing laws at the time.

Clinical Trial Recruitment Today

Today, the widespread accessibility of technology is bridging the gap between researchers, and research participants on a scale like never before. Easy access for those who are enthusiastic to do is effortlessly available. It only takes one simple search into Google, an advertisement to appear on Facebook, or a TV advert with step-by-step instructions to send someone on their way to finding out more information and registering to take part.  


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