A dearth of warm bodies has prompted two companies to turn to the Web to find willing subjects for clinical trials.
Two popular medical Internet sites, www.drkoop.com and www.americasdoctor.com, are trolling the Web for clinical trial volunteers. At Drkoop.com, a site set up and bankrolled by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, visitors can browse through a display of diseases, such as AIDS, heart attack and menopause, to discover which are seeking trial volunteers.
At americasdoctor.com, the solicitation of test subjects is a bit less subtle. A boldface, big-type headline announces, "We want to test your body!" Those who wish to participate are asked to complete a preliminary health survey from which, according to the site, they will be matched to an "appropriate medical study."
Because use of the Web to locate trial participants is new, it's too early to access the sure-to-be-soon site that will show how many people seize this opportunity to click and point their way into the medical frontier.
Once bitten, twice shy? At its annual house of delegates meeting earlier this summer, the American Medical Association voted to limit the sale of health-related products in doctors' offices, and suggested that patients be informed when their doctors have a financial interest in any products sold on site.
Perhaps the physician association is playing it safe after its 1997 public relations fiasco involving Sunbeam Corp. In that tangle of corporate vs. association policy, the AMA agreed to a marketing plan that would have allowed Sunbeam to put the AMA seal of approval on its products without any pretesting by the AMA.
After a long and loud outcry from association members and the public, the AMA balked, backed out of the deal and eventually paid Sunbeam a $9.9 million settlement.
No prescription? No problem! Who would have guessed that online prescription drug sales may soon rival porn as the Internet's bread and butter.
The anonymity of the Web makes it an attractive place to shop for popular, though sometimes embarrassing, prescription drugs such as Viagra, the widely publicized antidote to male impotence, or Propecia, which halts hair loss. So it's not surprising that business is booming.
Most sites don't require a prescription, but many do promise that, for an additional fee, an online application and medical survey will be reviewed by a consulting physician. The promise sounds good, and it may boost sales, but it has also caught the attention of regulatory officials across the country.
In Kansas, the state board of healing arts and the attorney general's office mounted a sting operation that revealed even teens using their real names and ages could purchase Viagra online.
Consequently, at the beginning of the summer the Kansas Attorney General's office filed consumer protection lawsuits against several online prescription companies and three physicians who review online applications. The state's board of healing arts filed civil lawsuits seeking permanent injunctions against the companies.
In Washington state, a Seattle physician was cited and fined earlier this year by the Washington Medical Quality Assurance Commission. The physician, Leandro Pasos, M.D., was fined $500 for prescribing Viagra online, a relative pittance compared to the estimated $5,000 a month Pasos was earning as a cyberdoc.
Balance. It may not be your checkbook, but your chi that needs a little balancing.
Physicians having trouble finding inner harmony in this era of assembly-line medicine take heart. A conference this month in Durham, N.C., sponsored by the Society for Professional Well-Being, aims to "Rediscover the Compassionate Physician in an Age of Managed Care."
Session leader Kay Gilley, author of Coping with Chaos, Living with Intention, says the program will help physicians rediscover their "passion and aliveness" in work. Gilley, who helps professionals and executives find "joy, balance, meaning and purpose in the midst of chaos and change," says most of her physician clients feel steamrolled by the changes in the medical marketplace, and that she can help them begin the process of feeling better.
Gilley suggests physicians do things like take a moment and breathe deeply before walking into an exam room to remind themselves why they got into the practice of medicine. "Anything that stops the treadmill for just a few seconds and allows you to reconnect with who you are" is helpful, she says.
The program will encourage physicians to explore other ways to find balance in their hectic lives as well. "I provide a container for healthy healing to begin, which is very different from bitching and moaning."