International Clinical Trials Day

James Lind

International Clinical Trials Day (2019) will be celebrated in the front foyer of the Acute Services Building between 10 am and 2 pm. It will highlight the excellent clinical research conducted on the Royal North Shore Hospital Campus.

International clinical trials day is held each year on the 20th of May to celebrate the day in 1753 that James Lind commenced the first documented clinical trial. This study convincingly demonstrated that scurvy could be treated with citrus fruit [Lind, 1753]. Scurvy is a horrible disease, the mortality associated with this condition on long sea voyages during the “Age of Sail” was approximately 50% [Price 2017]. Lind’s study conclusively demonstrated the striking contrast between the severity of the disease and the simplicity of its cure. Without recognition of the importance of the scientific methodology behind the clinical trial, it took an additional forty years of experiments, analysis, and political lobbying for his result to become institutionalized in the Royal Navy [Cegłowski, 2010]. It was not until 1795 that the Royal Navy routinely administered citrus fruit to sailors  [Hemila, 2006]. Sadly, since antiquity, it has been documented that fresh fruit will prevent scurvy. In the absence of the evidence provided by the “scientific methodology”, these observations were forgotten or ignored by subsequent generations [Cegłowski, 2010]. Indeed in 1497, three hundred years prior to the routine adoption of the administration of citrus to sailors, Vasco de Gama’s crew had recognised the curative power of citrus in the prevention of this disease [Cegłowski, 2010].

The objective of clinical trials day is to acknowledge the importance of clinical research, in particular, the power of “experimental design” — the methodology applied in clinical trials.

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