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Web Sites That Seek Clinical Trial Clients

March 05, 2001|Benedict Carey

Acurian.com http://www.acurian.com

Background: Founded in 1998 by health-care executives and a group of venture capitalists who focus on health care, Acurian attempts to find patients and investigators for new clinical trials. Its customers include drug manufacturers and biotech companies.

What Works: One of the strongest features here is a page called All About Clinical Trials, which explains what clinical trials are, why they're important and what's meant by the various phases, from I and II (small studies of a drug or treatment's safety and effectiveness) through phase III (large-scale studies of all the risks and benefits) and beyond.

What Doesn't: You have to register with your e-mail address to even browse the trials, and it's not clear which trials the site lists. Are these only the trials being run by the site's clients? Do they include all government-sponsored projects? One thing is certain: Acurian is providing only a portion of what's out there. If you searched for trials in late February, under the categories of gastroenterology, hematology or ophthalmology (to take just a few), you got only a message saying, "You have selected a therapeutic area that is still under development." Acurian's general information about diseases also needs development.

Veritas Medicine

http://www.veritasmedicine.com

Background: Veritas was launched last year by venture capitalists and a group of Boston-area doctors, many of them affiliated with Harvard University School of Medicine. The site says it provides "information on clinical trials and treatment options for over 40 serious, chronic medical conditions, including breast cancer, diabetes, hepatitis C, HIV-AIDS, Alzheimer's and rheumatoid arthritis." Its clients also include big pharmaceutical companies and biotechs.

What Works: Doctors work here, for starters, and they're paying attention. The site is well organized, with information where you need it. Interested in diabetes? Click on that disease and you will be dropped into the capable hands of Dr. Evan Rosen, instructor at Harvard Medical School, whose page will tell you the basics, such as what diabetes is, its current treatments and the main areas being investigated, such as islet cell transplantation, gene therapy and new drug development. When you're ready to search for trials, Veritas will ask for relevant facts (age, type of disease, medications, for example) and list all trials for which you qualify, outlining what investigators are trying to do and what's required to participate.

What Doesn't: Here again, the site doesn't make clear which trials you're being shown and whether the list is comprehensive. According to Veritas' chief executive, Dr. Joseph Avellone, the site has all 1,200-odd government-sponsored trials online and will add hundreds more private experiments over the coming months. It would be nice to have this information available on the site, though, especially for people who want to enter a trial but don't qualify for anything on Veritas. The site could also make its considerable expertise more available to users; for now, there's no convenient Ask An Expert feature for specific questions.

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Shopping for a clinical trial online is like shopping for anything else: You have to poke around. Other sites to check include the National Institute of Health's listing, at clinicaltrials.gov; and Centerwatch.com.

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