Clinical Research History

Clinical Research is a component of medical and health research whose focus is to use clinical trials and observational studies to provide knowledge on aspects such as understanding human disease, providing better care for patients, and developing new means of treating diseases. It can be traced back to Biblical times when Daniel and three of his brothers were put on a diet of vegetables and water while another group of men was put under the king’s diet of wine and meat. After a while, the two groups were observed and evidently, Daniel and his brothers were healthier.

First Clinical Trial

In 1537, a French military surgeon named Ambroise Paré practiced the first clinical trial, albeit unintentionally, on the battlefield when taking care of soldiers who had gotten injured. Initially, the soldiers had their wounds cleaned and dressed using hot oil. When the standard remedy ran out, the surgeon had to develop a new means to help the soldiers. Using a core principle of clinical research, experimentation, Ambroise Paré came up with a new mixture to cover and treat the wounds which ended up being more effective than the hot oil. 

More physicians over history contributed to the development of the Clinical Research field by conducting studies, collecting and analyzing reports, comparing treatments, and maintaining records of all experimentation. Some physicians who contributed to the early stages of Clinical Research were Jan Baptist van Helmont who was concerned with the better treatment of patients, Dr. James Lind who conducted a clinical trial in regards to the treatment of scurvy, and Austin Flint who studied placebos and active treatments.

Ethics in Clinical Research

In the 1930s and 1940s concerns over the ethical practice in Clinical Research in trials began to arise. One such case was in the Nazi concentration camps where the Nazi physicians would conduct nonconsensual human experiments on the prisoners. This led to the introduction of The Nuremberg Code in 1947 to bar such events from happening again. Similar unfortunate happenings led to the World Medical Association drafting an international manuscript promoting voluntary involvement and informed consent in human subjects’ research called the Declaration of Helsinki.

Clinical Research today has evolved to incorporate the use of technology and data to make better-informed decisions that have a rich impact on patients.

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