Have you ever wondered who ate the first artichoke? Someone had to be the first, and the same is true for new medications. We feel safe taking medications because someone volunteers to take a new drug and takes part in Paid Research Studies, hoping it will be safe. Through clinical trials, consumers and pharmaceutical companies discover a drug’s effects. Imagine your doctor diagnosing arthritis during your office examination and prescribing anti-inflammatory medicine. You feel secure about taking it because King Nebuchadnezzer II, between 605 and 562 BC, performed the first recorded trial.
It Started with a Biblical Experiment
According to the Old Testament, Nebuchadnezzer restricted children of royal blood to a diet of meat and wine while three other children ate a diet of bread and water. After three years, the children who didn’t eat meat seemed healthier. With time, research techniques and evaluation methods improved. Highlights include James Lind curing scurvy in 1747.
Using two groups of sailors, Lind added lemon juice to one group’s diet while adding cider and vinegar to the second group’s diet. In only six days, the lemon juice group was scurvy-free. Placebos, or pills containing no medication, entered research in 1879. Used to trick the subconscious, scientists give placebos to study participants as a control or baseline. Scientists compare the effects of the drug being studied against those of the placebo.
Randomization, which was introduced in 1923, entails giving two groups of study participants placebos and study medications. Participants may receive the study medication or a placebo, but they won’t know which they have received. These are also called blind clinical trials.
These advances make a trial’s data cleaner. However, having pharmaceutical consulting companies conduct clinical trials eliminates drug manufacturers’ influence. This means that the results will be reported in a completely unbiased way meaning that the best interests of those people potentially needing the treatments and drugs is at the heart of the studies.
Volunteers are Protected
Advances also led to better study conditions for volunteers. The World Medical Association (WMA) approved the Declaration of Helsinki, delineating ethical principles for human research. Study participants must be treated with respect and have the right to make informed decisions.
Safe medications are possible because of clinical trials. They give scientists the chance to see new drugs in action, measure their effectiveness and prevent dangerous medications from reaching the average citizen. The next time you take aspirin, remember the people who risked that first dose.