Dec 09 2009
Several weeks ago I wrote the first in a brief series of posts discussing the different types of evidence used in medicine. In that post I discussed the role of correlation in determining cause and effect.
In this post I will discuss the basic features of an experimental study, which can sere as a check-list in evaluating the quality of a clinical trial.
Medical studies can be divided into two main categories – pre-clinical or basic science studies, and clinical studies. Basic science studies involve looking at how parts of the biological system work and how they can be manipulated. They typically involve so-called in vitro studies (literally in glass) – using test tubes, petri dishes, genetic sequencers, etc. Or they can involve animal studies.
Clinical trials involve people. They are further divided into two main categories – observational studies and experimental studies. I will be discussing experimental studies in this post – studies in which an intervention is done to study subjects. Observational studies, on the other hand, look at what is happening or what has happened in the world, but does not involve any intervention.