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Randomised Controlled Trial

the key to evidence based medicine London,

Black-and-white photograph of Peter Medawar.
Streptomycin being produced, Boots laboratory, Nottingham, 1946. Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

In the 1940s the Medical Research Council (MRC) pioneered the development of the randomised control trial. This is the gold standard for a clinical trial, a specific kind of experiment designed to work out whether a new drug or treatment is effective and is safe to use.

As the name suggests, the key feature of these trials is that the patients who take part are randomly allocated to receive one of the available treatments under study, or perhaps a placebo.

The first published randomised controlled trial appeared in a 1948 landmark paper in the British Medical Journal by John Crofton and Denis Mitchison entitled "Streptomycin treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis", which described an MRC investigation at the Brompton Hospital.

By the late 20th century, randomised control trials were recognized as the standard method for evidence-based medicine. Today, they are considered by most to be the most reliable form of scientific data when it comes to shaping healthcare policy and practice.

Medical Research Council

Key Individuals
John Crofton, D.A. Mitchison,