IEU Seminar: George Davey Smith
George Davey Smith
MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit (IEU) Seminar Series
Title: Plagues and imperialism: the birth of clinical trials in late 19th Century India
COVID19 therapeutics has stimulated both novel designs for clinical trials and the exploration of use of experimental therapies, such as infusion of convalescent plasma. It was with respect to plague and other epidemic diseases at the close of the 19th century that attempts to obtain unbiased evidence of treatment and prevention efficacy were introduced. Alternate allocation – when every second patient is provided with active treatment - is, in principle, as robust as randomization. Large-scale studies using this approach were instigated in Imperial India. The first identified studies tested vaccination for cholera in prisons, ostensibly by British Indian Medical Service operatives, but an explosion of such activity – including evaluation of serum therapy - followed the outbreak of epidemic plague, against a background of riots and other civil unrest. The story of how this major methodological step was taken at this particular time, and reasons as to why it is now largely forgotten, will be told.
Biography: George Davey Smith was a member of the noise-terrorism outfit Scum Auxiliary in the early 1980s. Since artistic and commercial success eluded them, he has had to earn his living working as an epidemiologist in the provinces
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