Healthcare is important to everyone and, if healthcare is to continue to develop, the need for clinical trials becomes more clear. The Covid-19 pandemic alone required the rapid development of vaccines to try to stem the spread of the disease. One of the things that made this possible was the use of clinical trials.
Healthcare professionals around the world have a vested interest in improving their services. But every person will, at some point in their lives, require a robust healthcare system that can treat them. But what are clinical trials, and how can they help?
What Are Clinical Trials?
“Clinical trial” is a broad term that describes any biomedical or behavioral research study of humans. Each individual trial is designed to answer a specific question about how certain interventions (such as drugs, vaccines, or treatments) affect human subjects. The trial will determine whether the intervention is safe and effective.
Clinical trials occur very far down the development stage of these new interventions, and are one of the final tests before the intervention is released. Typically, they go through four phases:
- Phase One. These trials are tested on a small group of around 20-80 individuals to evaluate safety.
- Phase Two. These trials study the effects on a group of several hundred people to determine effectiveness and safety.
- Phase Three. These trials study large groups of hundreds or thousands of people, with other interventions being used as comparison. This trial collects information about the safety of the intervention and monitors any adverse effects.
- Phase Four. These studies occur after the intervention has been marketed and released. Further information is gathered about any effects in the general population.
This is the basic procedure for clinical trials, and it’s already clear why they’re important. Without these trials, new medications and treatments can’t be safely developed. There are other variations in the process of clinical trials.
For example, decentralized clinical trials are centered around the patients in their ordinary lives rather than bringing them to trial sites. This style of clinical trial is becoming far more popular.
Clinical Trials and Quality of Care
So, how can clinical trials and clinical researchers affect the quality of healthcare? Most people only really come into contact with doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. However, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes.
For example, it’s common knowledge that gut health is far more significant than it looks at first glance. The bacteria in our gut helps to digest food, but it also plays a role in immunity, appetite, and even mental health. It’s only in the last fifteen years that researchers have taken a closer look into gut microbes and general health.
A more recent example of how clinical trials change healthcare for the better is in the field of gene therapy. While it’s controversial, clinical trials suggest that it can be used to treat certain cancers, potentially saving countless lives.
Without clinical trials, many of the medications and treatments that people rely on wouldn’t exist. So, next time you get a vaccine or take an over the counter painkiller, think about the hard work that’s gone into it.