For centuries, medical professionals have used clinical trials to test potential patient treatment options – everything from the health benefits of a vegetarian diet to the first randomized controlled of trial of streptomycin in the mid-1900s. The history of clinical trials is a fascinating one, covering a wide variety of scientific and ethical ground. Scroll down to find out more about the history of clinical trials and how that history guides today’s best practices.
History of Clinical Trials
Early Medical Trials
Research shows that clinical trials have roots in biblical times, with one of the first cited trials taking place in the Bible’s Book of Daniel. Written accounts outline a trial ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar, who asked his people to eat only meat and drink only wine to keep them in sound condition for military fighting. But when several young royals objected, the king allowed them to follow a diet of legumes for 10 days. At the end of the experiment, the vegetarians appeared well-nourished – so King Nebuchadnezzar allowed them to continue their diet. This is just one example of early clinical trials, with other examples outlined in the Canon of Medicine written by Avicenna in 1025 A.D.
Clinical Trials in the Age of Reason
In the eighteenth century, Europe entered what we now refer to as “The Age of Reason,” or the Enlightenment. This period prioritized intellectualism and logic – which is where James Lind came into the picture. Lind, a doctor for the British Royal Navy, is known for a trial in which he worked to cure scurvy in seafaring men. Lind gave scurvy patients with similar symptoms a variety of medicines: cider, vinegar, vitriol, sea water, lemons, and oranges. As we now know, the oranges and lemons won due to their vitamin C content. Still, it would be another 50 years before every overseas journey included lemon juice for the British Navy sailors.
Although clinical trials have been around for centuries, regulated clinical trials technically began in the 1900s. The first double-blind, controlled medical trial took place in 1944 with the goal of testing patulin for the treatment of the common cold. Unfortunately, patulin was ineffective – but the trial’s execution paved the way for today’s clinical trials.
Exploring the history of clinical trials also involves identifying the ethical failures that led to today’s strict trial procedures. For example, the horrors of Nazi-led human experimentation led to new medical research laws throughout the Western world, as outlined in The Nuremberg Code of 1947. Other ethical mandates include the 1962 Kefauver-Harris amendments and the Helsinki Declaration of 1964, both of which added specific guidelines for human trials.
It is only by understanding history that we can truly see how far we’ve come. Ultimately, mid-century advancements like the Nuremberg Code and the Kefauver-Harris amendments led to the safe and heavily regulated clinical trial procedures of today. Modern clinical trials are mindfully designed and carefully governed to improve medical protocols through the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of disease.
Have you ever thought about participating in a clinical trial? You could be a part of history! And QPS Missouri is looking for new participants. Since opening its doors in 1994, QPS Missouri has conducted over 1,000 FDA-regulated studies. That includes paying out over $35 million to local participants. Plus, your local participation could have a global impact, as QPS is an international leader in contract research with facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia. Our mission is to accelerate the development of drugs worldwide by enabling breakthroughs in pharmaceutical innovation. If you would like to join us in this mission, consider applying for a clinical trial.
To get started, you simply need to fill out an online application. Within 48 business hours, a recruiting coordinator will contact you for your pre-screening assessment. To learn more, please visit the QPS Missouri website, review the study participation process, or check out our list of FAQ.