Pharmaceutical companies often have difficulty enrolling enough volunteers for drug trials in the U.S. and in Europe, but there's a place where volunteers are plentiful: Russia. It's a move of convenience, as authorities see the shortage of health care providers in that country, doctors are stretched thin, and patients cannot afford treatment any other way.
In fact, under a law passed in 2010, ostensibly on health grounds, foreign drug companies must test medicine on Russians for it to be marketed in Russia.
The law has the effect of compelling investment in clinical testing on Russians, trade groups say. And it is working. The number of drugs tested on Russians has shot up over the last year. Russian regulators approved 448 clinical trials in the first six months of 2012, compared to 201 in the same period a year earlier — an increase of 96 percent.
Russia is not alone in opening the doors of hospitals in the national health system to drug companies looking for test subjects, in a quid pro quo with the international industry that conducts tests globally for a better demographic representation.
Testing in Russia is a net benefit to public health, pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into diagnostic work and doctor care that would not have been here otherwise. Much of the business swirls around lower-risk testing of generic replacements for brand-name drugs.
In the U.S., the line between "experiment" and "treatment" is much more broadly drawn. But the Russians seem to be resigned to the way things are. One volunteer gave the article a punch line:
“Why not? I take risks every day,” Mr. Maksimov said, noting that he recently flew on a Russian-made airplane.
(Image credit: Olga Kravets for The New York Times)