The experiment took place on board HMS Salisbury where 12 men suffering scurvy were given a variety of dietary supplements and studied by Lind. The men who were given citrus fruits showed noticeable improvement and provided evidence of the beneficial link between citrus fruit and scurvy.
As well as celebrating this milestone anniversary of the medical world the international day also aims to raise awareness of the importance of clinical trials in the advancement of medicine and encourage more people to take part in trials.
Despite the huge advancements in clinical trials since James Lind’s scurvy trial there are still issues of concern including the transparency of trials, in particular publication of unfavourable trial results, and the regulation of trials and patient safety.
There is no current law in the UK compelling a UK company to report and publish the results of the trials that it commissions. However, this position will hopefully improve with an EU Directive that is due to come into force in 2017/18. This directive is set to change the current picture for clinical trials in the UK, but only if it remains in UK law post-Brexit.
Research conducted by scientists at the University of Oxford was reported last year to have shown that almost 50% of trials over the last 10 years remain unpublished. It has also been suggested that negative results are twice as likely as positive results to remain unreported.
Even with safe regulation and increased transparency, at some point a human will always have to be the first to test a new drug. Inevitably, there will always be risks associated with that stage. It is therefore critical that an appropriate compensatory scheme is in place for when things do go wrong. The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) provides guidelines on the insurance and compensation for clinical trials. The ABPI guidelines are far from ideal but those who have suffered ill health as a result of their participation may be entitled to compensation.
“The importance of clinical trials in advancing medicine and reducing pain and suffering for those battling illness and disease cannot be underestimated.
“International Clinical Trials Day is a great way to raise awareness of the benefits of clinical trials and encourage people to learn more about them.
“The world of clinical trials has come a long way since James Lind’s pioneering experiment aboard the HMS Salisbury in 1747, however, it is crucial that the safety of participants is paramount and robust regulations are enforced to ensure that trials are carried out responsibly.”