Clinical trials are behavioural or biomedical research studies that are performed to answer questions about biomedical or behavioural interventions such as new vaccines, treatments, drugs or devices. Trials can vary in size from quite small to very large. Clinical trials are funded by a variety of organizations, including the government or a biotechnology, pharmaceutical or medical device company.
Clinical trials are conducted on human subjects, only after approval from the local ethics committee and health authority. Clinical trials often involve healthy subjects who have no pre-existing medical conditions and who receive financial incentives. They may also pertain to patients with specific health conditions who want to receive otherwise unavailable treatments. In order to be ethical, researchers must obtain fully informed consent of participants.¹
One of the most famous clinical trials was performed by James Lind in 1747, where he demonstrated that citrus fruits cure scurvy. Lind compared the effects of a variety of acidic substances, ranging from vinegar to lemons, on groups of sailors with scurvy. He found that the group who were given lemons and oranges had the largest recovery from scurvy after six days.
Before participation in a clinical trial, volunteers should speak with their doctors and family members. After receiving consent from their doctor, volunteers can talk to the clinical trial coordination for more information and to answer any questions.
1. Clinical Trials: What you Need to Know. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/clinicaltrials/whatyouneedtoknowaboutclinicaltrials/index.htm