This week, we were pleased to see the importance of healthcare research highlighted with various campaigns running across the country to raise awareness of clinical trials.
International Clinical Trials Day is held on 20 May each year in commemoration of the day James Lind began the first ever clinical trial. The date also offers an opportunity for those working in the research field to take action and raise the profile of clinical research.
Lind’s experiment in 1747 was, not surprisingly, run under very different conditions than today. As outlined by The Guardian, it included a mere 12 men, grouped into pairs and given a variety of dietary supplements to assess the causes of scurvy. The supplements ranged from cider to oranges and lemons.
Despite the short timeframe (6 days), Lind was able to argue the case for a link between citrus fruits and scurvy and so began the realisation that eating your five-a-day is beneficial for your health!
The UK’s theme this year – “It’s OK to ask” – is centred around the notion that, while clinical research is thriving in the NHS, there is little understanding among the general public. The new campaign, pioneered by England’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), encourages patients to ask their doctors about clinical-research opportunities and aims to improve understanding.
Last year, over 595,000 patients took part in clinical trials in the UK and it seemed to Pharma Times that the trend for research participation was growing. However, a new poll from the NIHR has revealed that more than one third of people do not feel well informed about clinical research and fewer than 20% would feel comfortable asking their doctor about potential trials.
The poll also revealed that:
• 21% were aware that carrying out research was a key activity for the National Health Service
• 82% felt it was important for the NHS to offer research participation
• And fewer than 7% said they would never take part in clinical-research
It’s also interesting to note that, although the public showed a high level of trust in the NHS, they were deeply suspicious of clinical trials carried out by pharmaceutical companies and were completely unaware of the level of collaboration between the two. The poll also revealed a lack of understanding of the processes surrounding clinical trials and a struggle to understand concepts such as a placebo or blinded study.
To tackle these misunderstandings, the NIHR asked health organisations to consider staging a ‘mock clinical trial’ on International Clinical Trials Day. The idea was to use chocolate (or a confectionery of choice) in a mock trial. Volunteers, including patients and staff, were taken through the study process; enlightening them on the nature of clinical trials, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and prompting some of them to take part.
Click here for more information on the trial protocol and to find out who did take part.