Clinical research lies at the heart of medical advances. It tests the safety and effectiveness of drugs and medicines that are taken in order to control or prevent disease. Clinical trials can also be carried out to measure the impact that certain foods can have on our health and evaluate the detrimental effects of substances such as alcohol and nicotine.
Clinical trials are undertaken by medical professionals and are often sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. These trials must adhere to strict protocols and are overseen by various regulatory bodies. In the past, medical breakthroughs often occurred by accident, such as the discovery of penicillin. However, in the 21st century trials are strictly controlled and patient welfare is the number-one priority.
Although we are all living longer than ever, there are several conditions that are likely to overwhelm the NHS in the coming years. It is vital that research continues into these diseases and others like them.
Diabetes is on the increase and scientists are attempting to develop a vaccine for Type 1 which could be available in the coming years. There is also a vaccine being launched for Type 2 diabetes which helps to lower blood-glucose levels
New antidepressants derived from ketamine are currently being tested. These can become effective much more quickly than conventional medication. Other solutions such as talking therapies are also being developed so that they can be used alongside medication.
Brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s remain incurable and research is ongoing in order to find a cure. New drugs are being developed in the US which could eliminate the abnormal build-up of protein in the brain. Stem-cell research is also being developed.
Scientists are researching the use of drugs to help lower the risk of cancer. Some of these are naturally occurring substances in the form of vitamins and minerals, while others are man-made drugs such as statins. It is hoped that in future drugs rather than surgery will used to target tumours.
There is a large amount of research in the pipeline for the treatment of arthritis. A revolutionary vaccine has been developed to prevent and reduce damage to joints caused by rheumatoid arthritis and injections that could dramatically reduce pain are also being researched.
Behind every medicine and intervention are thousands of patients who have volunteered to take part in clinical trials in addition to dozens of medical researchers working behind the scenes. These trials have led to breakthroughs in disease treatment and prevention.
Clinical trials are vital to determine which medicines are effective, how best to use them and if there are any side effects. Conducting effective trials and recruiting informed participants is essential if we are to continue making progress in fighting the diseases that threaten our health and well-being.
Jim Collins writes regularly for scientific publications and websites, covering themes such as Clinical Research Services. Jim lives with his wife and daughter in London.