May 20, Clinical Trial Day

Clinical trial day is held on May 20th in honor of the first clinical trial, James Lind’s 1747 Trial on the treatment of Scurvy. The ironic thing is how shoddy the study design was. He took 12 sailors with scurvy and divided them into 6 groups of 2. He then treated each group with a different dietary supplement:

  1. quart of cider
  2. sulfuric acid
  3. vinegar
  4. seawater
  5. oranges and lemons
  6. spicy paste and barley water
By the time they ran out of lemons, six days the two sailors in group 5 showed remarkable improvement. No other group showed any improvement. I guess with an N of 2 you better hope for an NNT of 1.
Read the wikipedia page, it has a fascinating account of how this medical breakthrough was ignored and missed for 47 years until lemon juice was issued as part of provisions in 1794.

‘What the Industrial Revolution Did for Us: Modern Medicine’ from James Lind Library on Vimeo.