What are clinical trials and why are they important?


18 May marks the start of CLINICAL TRIALS AWARENESS WEEK, and the theme this year is CLINICAL TRIALS DURING A NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY.  This week we are very excited to be sharing daily posts with you to raise awareness of clinical trials, and why they are as important as ever during the covid-19 pandemic.  Please feel free to share these posts far and wide, and to contact us directly if you have questions or just want to chat more about clinical trials.

Clinical trials awareness week 2020:  Clinical trials during a national public health emergency

What are clinical trials, and why are they important?

Clinical trials are a type of research that studies new tests and treatments and evaluates their effects on human health outcomes. They are absolutely essential, as without them we would not be able to discover new medications and therapies, and make sure they are safe and effective before making them available to the people who need them.

Think about this:  Each and every single medication we have in the pharmacies right now had to be approved after being tested in a clinical trial, and prove itself to be both safe and effective.  Every single tablet, cream, lotion, ointment, injection, antibiotic, painkiller, vaccine, anaesthetic, and so many more.

Participation in clinical trials is completely voluntary, and people can choose to withdraw from a trial at any time with no repercussions.  See tomorrow’s post for more details on the INFORMED CONSENT process.

Each individual trial is carefully designed, and the design evaluated by ethics and other committees before each one is allowed to begin enrolling patients.  This step is vital for two main reasons:  Firstly, to protect the participants.  The committees make sure that patients will not be put at unnecessary risk because of their participation in the trial.  Secondly, to make sure that the design of the trial makes sense from a data collection point of view.  There would be no point in conducting a whole trial just to find at the end that the data collected is meaningless.

Patients are closely monitored for any adverse events (side effects) during the trial and are under the care of an experienced team of doctors and nurses during the trial.

Check out this fantastic video for a great summary of what clinical trials are, and the different phases of clinical trials:

Why are clinical trials still essential during a pandemic?

It is absolutely essential that research continues during the covid-19 pandemic, as this is the only way that we can discover new medications and therapies that may help to treat or prevent the illness.  Without these trials, healthcare providers would be practicing blindly, without knowing which treatments are the most effective, and what side effects to look out for.  It is important that new therapies are rigorously tested to ensure that they are safe as well as effective.  Without ongoing clinical trials, we would not be able to find a vaccine.  Look out for our posts later in the week where we focus on vaccine trials.