The first advert for the sale of a clinical trial place offers, for $2 million, the chance to participate as a patient in a trial investigating the Farmington virus (FARV) and its potential efficacy in treating certain forms of brain tumours. Meanwhile, Alexander Masters has written convincingly about his idea for a clinical trial dating agency: matching wealthy but sick donors with scientists who have an idea for a cure but no money for a trial (shorter version also available). In Masters’ idea as in the real life case, the proposal is that the wealthy donor will pay not just for himself or herself, but enough for the trial to go ahead with a full complement of those who could not otherwise afford it, recruited on the same basis as any trial.
Predictably, ethical concerns have been raised, perhaps the main one being equality: “In the UK, the principles in participating in clinical trials include open and equal access for those who chose to participate” (Kate Law, director of clinical and population research at Cancer Research UK, quoted in The Telegraph ).
Yet there are many more clinical trial ideas with potential to become effective treatments, and many more patients desperate for a Hail Mary pass, than there are funds to cover their costs. The alternative to this method of funding is not a clinical trial funded by the government, or by pharmaceutical companies, or by charities, but no clinical trial at all. Diseases that are rare are particularly vulnerable.
Moreover, the wealthy have always been able to access newer and better forms of healthcare than others.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.