By the Numbers Clinical Trials on the Rise Around the World

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Clinical drug development and trials are an extremely important part of the pharmaceutical industry, and allows scientists to test potential new drugs, treatments, surgical procedures, and devices. According to, as of December 2016 there are 231,976 completed or in progress registered clinical trials, including 84,716 (37% of total) in the United States, and 47% in 194 foreign countries. And the number of trials continues to rise as medical studies continue to advance.

Every drug and treatment on the market has begun as a phase 1 clinical trial. Without these trials, we would not have discovered necessary vaccines that have nearly eliminated some previously lethal diseases, or developed technologies that help those with limited mobility.

Every clinical study conducted is headed by a principal investigator. This investigator is most often a medical doctor who specializes in the field of study. Other doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, or other medical professionals may also work on the trial handling medical research studies, pooling information that could benefit the case study.

Many clinical studies are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies or teaching hospitals, not to mention federal institutions like the National Institute of Health, the Department of Defense, or the VA. In some cases, doctors will sponsor and fund their own clinical trials, but this is not nearly as common.

Since the number of clinical studies in progress has become accessible to the public in 2000, the number of studies has increased by more than 40-fold.

As more technology becomes available, clinical trials become more viable. And the more viable they become, the more research health professionals are able to conduct.

During these clinical studies, doctors are able to explore new, possibly unconventional methods, and make unlikely connections that may lead to new discoveries and innovations in medicine and pharmacy.

Many of these trials end positively. For example, when the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) sponsored a trial comparing two different asthma medications, it was found that a combination of multiple medications was favorable to the present treatment.

Another study explored whether hormone therapy reduced heart disease risk in postmenopausal women. Hormone therapy had been regularly used to prevent heart disease and balance hormones in these aging women, but what the researchers found was extremely important. The reality was that hormone therapy didn’t reduce risk for heart disease, it increased risk within the first couple months. Risk of stroke and blood clots also increases, as did the probability of breast cancer if the woman took a combination of estrogen and progestin.

That clinical study changed the FDA’s view on the treatment forever, discouraging its use for heart disease prevention, and limiting the dosage for postmenopausal women.

Clinical trials will continue as other trials come to an end, searching for new findings that will prove even more helpful for global healthcare.

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