Fix clinical trials challenges in Africa!!

May 20 every year marks International Clini­cal Trials Day, which commemorates the day Scottish medical scientist James Lind began the first randomised clinical trial in 1747.

Therefore, yesterday was Inter­national Clinical Trials Day.

History has it that while aboard the HMS Salisbury, a 50-gun fourth-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy of Great Brit­ain, Dr Lind conducted what is considered the first clinical trial by administering different dietary supplements prepared from oranges and lemons to sailors suffering from scurvy.

His findings, highlighting the effectiveness of citrus fruits in preventing scurvy, laid the foundation for modern clinical research.

Clinical trials are research stud­ies that test a medical, surgical, or behavioural intervention in people and are the primary way by which researchers determine if a new form of treatment or prevention such as a new drug, diet, or medical device is safe and effective.

Often, a clinical trial is designed to learn if a new treatment is more effective or has less harmful side effects than existing treat­ments.

Other objectives include finding approaches to prevent a health problem by testing people who are healthy but at increased risk of developing a disease.

This shows how important such research is.

James Lind deserves every honour for his ground-breaking pioneering work, which has un­dergone unimaginable evolution to enhance healthcare.

In a world now bedeviled with countless diseases, some of which defy treatment, clinical trials can­not be ignored in healthcare.

Fortunately, today, clinical trials are highly structured and rigorously regulated to ensure the safety and efficacy of new treatments.

Besides, it is on record that advances in technology, ethical standards, and global collabora­tion have significantly enhanced the capacity to conduct clinical research, bringing innovative ther­apies to patients worldwide.

Unfortunately, however, the records have it that despite these advancements, conducting clinical trials in Africa poses some pecu­liar challenges.

Africa’s population is said to be equivalent to 17.8 per cent of the total world population of 7.951 billion as of 2022 and bears 25 per cent of the global burden of disease, yet only about four per cent of global clinical tri­als are conducted on the African continent.

And the sad aspect of it all is that the four per cent trials are unevenly distributed and concen­trated in only a few countries.

The sadder part is that as a result, most medicines are developed through clinical trials conducted outside Africa without considering the implications of their use in African patients or within African health systems.

Key obstacles accounting for this state of affairs are said to in­clude limited funding, inadequate infrastructure, and regulatory complexities.

Why does Africa lag behind everything that happens on the globe however good it is?

Do African leaders care about the wellbeing and welfare of their peoples?

If African leaders want to toy with things in their countries, those things must not include the health of the people.

Is it not dangerous to allow into African countries medicines developed from clinical trials done outside the African conti­nent?

It is about time African gov­ernments fixed the problems by seriously partnering Science For Africa (SFA) Foundation as it seeks to increase investments in clinical research, enhance regula­tory frameworks, and foster col­laboration between stakeholders.

What is more is that SFA Foundation’s Clinical Research and Trials Community (CRTC) programme is committed to transforming the clinical trials landscape in Africa through sever­al strategic initiatives, including increasing investments in Ethical Clinical Trials and creating a Sus­tainable Clinical Trials Ecosystem in Africa.

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