Not many people know that the first clinical trial in the world took place over 250 years ago here in the UK. In 1747, Dr James Lind carried out his now historic trial, looking at treatments for the then deadly disease scurvy. Now, we commemorate that day as International Clinical Trials Day.
The UK has continued to lead the way in clinical trial design and execution. A Medical Research Council study, published in 1948, on ‘Streptomycin treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis’, is viewed as the first example of a ‘gold-standard’ randomised controlled clinical trial - methodology which is still in use today in the development of new medicines.
It is important to point out that clinical trials play a central role in the development of new innovative medicines. In fact, the strong research and development environment in the UK, which includes clinical trials, means that a seventh of the top 100 medicines in use today originated from research in this country – which places the UK second only to the United States.
For us here at the ABPI, this day provides a focal point not only to commemorate the history of clinical trials in medical research, but more importantly, gives us an opportunity to recognise and appreciate the altruism of the patients who take part in them.
Clinical trials are an essential ingredient in the process of producing life-changing medicines; they are an integral part of the medicines development pathway and our member companies spend a lot of time and effort testing the safety and efficacy of new, innovative medicines before bringing them to patients. This infographic demonstrates the long and complex development process for new medicines. However, we mustn’t forget that clinical trials wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of the patients who agree to take part.
It’s not always a simple or easy process; patients have to be given all the information about the trial, they must then give their informed consent, dedicate their time to attending appointments and finally have all the necessary tests to ensure their continued health during participation. We in industry recognise the importance of this contribution from patients and just how central patients are in developing innovative medicines.
The importance of patients in clinical research is also being championed by the UK’s National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). They are launching a campaign to empower patients and encourage engagement in clinical research. The ‘It’s OK to ask’ campaign aims to encourage patients and their carers to ask their doctor about clinical research and whether it is right for them. Follow the link for more details on their campaign.
In summary, International Clinical Trials Day is all about expressing our gratitude to those involved in the clinical trials process and we hope that patients will continue taking part – to develop innovative new medicines that improve the lives of those who need them most.
Dr Bina Rawal
Director of Research, Medical and Innovation