Moving from Art to Science: The Role of Clinical Research in Modern Medicine
The distinction between medicine as an art and medicine as a science can be made based on one important factor: evidence based practice. When medical practices are effective, despite a lack of evidence for why they are effective, we describe them as an art. When medicine is proven to be effective through rigorous observation and analysis, it is a science. For centuries, the conventional view of medicine was as an art reserved for an elite few to who could treat ailments attributable to evil spirits or angry Gods. Although there is evidence that ancient Egyptians and Babylonians founded modern practices of diagnosis, prognosis and medical examination, the 19th Century marked the beginning of modern medicine and the shift towards clinical trials as a tool to better understand human disease.
Today, the findings from evidence based clinical trials are advancing medical practice. Think of how effectively we can treat hypertension or diabetes and how many other diseases are better understood and treated today than at any other time in history. Without such research, Dr. Fredrick Banting would not have discovered insulin and treated dying children with type 1 diabetes; and we would not have eradicated a variety of infectious diseases that once plagued humans.
Clinical trials have played such an important role in the evolution of medical research because they allow for the systematic study of human disease and ailments. Each new clinical trial builds on work from the results of previous clinical trials to improve our knowledge of a disease. Furthermore, the standard for approval for marketable drugs is very high, and very regulated meaning that patients can be ensured that treatments prescribed by their doctors are not only going to make a measurable difference, but that they have been reviewed for safety.
Credit must also be given to the participants of clinical trials because without volunteer participation there could be no clinical trials. The main reason for publishing this magazine is to inform readers about the nature of clinical trials. My hope is to raise awareness about the process of clinical research because a properly conducted clinical trial is conducive to good health: it not only aids medical research, but also aids individuals who suffer from a health condition or disease.
There exists a public stigma regarding clinical trial participation. I think the reason for this stigma is a lack of understanding for what clinical trials represent. By being involved in a trial, a patient is granted an opportunity to potentially treat their health condition. By studying a medication in a trial, we are paving the way for future sufferers of a particular disease to be better equipped at fighting the disease. Through the development of this magazine, I wish to present to the public a whole-hearted appeal to become informed in clinical trial research. After all, clinical research is the future of medicine.
In recognition of the increasing demand for physicians to carry out and partake in clinical research, and patients’ desire to better care for their health conditions, I created the Canadian Centre for Clinical Trials (CCCT) to connect the two sides of this search. As a doctor and clinical researcher for over 25 years, I have come to notice the lack of general knowledge about the clinical trial field in doctors and patients alike. This is what we would like to change at the CCCT. We hope this inaugural issue of the Clinical Trials Canada Magazine is informative and an enjoyable read.
Written by Dr. Igor Wilderman