A Clinical Research Student’s Guide to Case-Control Studies in Pharmaceutical SciencesSeptember 8, 2015
In today’s globalized world, outbreaks of disease and illness are spreading beyond cultural lines and effecting populations in new and unfamiliar ways.
If you are planning to pursue a career in clinical research, there is no better time than the present. You can help uncover the dangers that can harm communities and the cures that can save lives. And case-control studies are an excellent method clinical researchers use to do just that.
To prepare for your rewarding career in clinical research, read on for the basics of case-control studies.
A Brief Description of Case-Control Studies
Once you’ve earned your diploma, your specialized skills will help you investigate rare conditions and analyze disease outbreaks. This is important work, and case-control studies will help you do it. They’re a great way for researchers to find clues about what causes a particular disease or illness.
It’s all about gathering and comparing data. Clinical researchers compare information about people who already have a disease (“cases”) with information about similar people who have not been affected (“controls”). By forming a hypothesis and examining how various risk factors affect both groups, a researcher can discover what the relevant variables are.
For example, a case-control study comparing those with lung cancer to those without found that smoking is a key variable: the cases had a greater history of smoking than the controls did. This study was actually one of the most significant triumphs of the case-control method. Facing years of resistance from tobacco companies, doctors Richard Doll and Bradford Hill drew the conclusion that smoking causes lung cancer, and now the world knows it.
When to Use Case-Control Studies in Clinical Research
Clinical research training teaches students to use case-control studies as a first step to understanding particular “epidemiology”—scientific patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations.
They are best used early in the research process, to yield clues that will go on to inform further, more rigorous research through methods like clinical trials and scientific testing.
This is because case-control studies are retrospective—they use data collected from patients and events of the past, making them less reliably conclusive than data collected at the time events actually happen by studies planned in advance. Recall bias (errors made when people remember past experiences) makes case-control data collected retrospectively significantly less accurate.
Good conclusions are drawn from extended clinical research, experimentation, statistical analysis, and peer review. Case-control studies will help you on your way to thoroughly understanding diseases and helping to prevent them.
Case-Control Studies Strengthen the Pharmaceutical Sciences
Experts who have earned their pharmaceutical sciences degree recognize the importance of case-control studies for ensuring that pharmaceuticals are reliably safe and effective enough to be sold on the market. They’re a relatively inexpensive way for the pharmaceutical industry to learn about the long term effects of their products, because these studies can be carried out by small teams or individual researchers in single facilities.
If you choose to lend your time and skills to the clinical research industry, you may find yourself working in “pharmacovigilance,” the monitoring of effects of medical drugs after they have been licensed for use. This kind of work requires training in case-control study facilitation, and offers important benefits to pharmaceutical patients nationwide. Your research can guard them against harmful effects, and help them achieve their very best health.
Are you interested in pursuing clinical research courses in Toronto? Visit AAPS for more information or to speak with an advisor.