Clinical trials are an essential part of modern medicine, helping in the fight against many diseases. They are a vital step towards taking scientific theory and turning it into improved and cutting-edge treatments for patients. Trials have been involved in the advancement of many new therapies and drugs for a wide range of conditions, but when did they first begin? Here are some examples of early medical trials that are part of human history:
One early medical trial is detailed in the Book of Daniel in the Bible. In 600BC in ancient Mesopotamia, King Nebu of Babylon wanted to compare two different approaches to a problem and examine the results. Soldiers of the King were ordered to drink only wine and eat only meat to see if it improved their strength and readiness for battle. Some soldiers were told to eat mostly vegetables for 10 days. After the test period, the King noted that those who had lived on mainly vegetables and water were in much better shape to those who lived on the wine and meat diet. This information was used to diversify the soldiers’ diets for the entire army.
While this is an early example of a medical trial, the first fully controlled clinical trial of recent times occurred in the 18th century. James Lind was a surgeon working aboard a ship who became interested in the high death rates from scurvy among sailors. Using the most common cures for, he conducted a comparable trial and his description of the trial fits the criteria for a modern-day medical trial. He gave some scurvy patients vinegar, some received cider and others, oranges and lemons. Within a matter of days, the patients who had received the fruit were back on active duty. Find out more about participating in Paid Research Studies at https://www.trials4us.co.uk
Fast forward one hundred years and the word ‘placebo’ appears for the first in a medical dictionary dated 1811. It was described as a medicine more to please than benefit a patient. By 1863, an American physician planned the first clinical study of rheumatism sufferers. He compared a placebo with a herbal treatment, finding the herbal extract had better results.
Zooming forward another one hundred years and the UK Medical Research Council began a trial in 1943 to investigate a potential treatment for the common cold. This trial was important as it represented the first double blind comparative test with controls in the general public. The trial had strict enrolment criteria and solid data collection methods for the first time, whereas other contemporary research was not quite so tightly controlled.
So, humans have a long history and medical research and conducting early, if not very controlled trials. We’ve come a long way since the days of King Nebu, with trials of today following standardised procedures and the utmost patient safety. Clinical trials will always be a crucial part of modern medicine, as we seek to discover innovative new technologies and methods to ethically progress modern treatments for disease.