Pharmaceutical companies rip the consumer off' in a variety of ways, mainly through the waste of time and money. Specifically, the amount of money (and time) spent on recruitment of patients for clinical studies. Pharmaceutical companies tend to rely on the investigators (participating physicians busy physicians, for the most part) of these clinical trials to recruit patients necessary for the study of a particular drug.
From development to market, the clinical study process can, and often does take as long as twelve years. The drug company recruits the investigators, who are responsible for recruiting qualified participants. Thus, the time it takes to find the necessary number of qualified patients per study depends upon:
1) The number of patients that happen to walk through the physician's door with the necessary criteria for the study, during the time of the study.
2) Whether or not the patient happens to see promotional material in the participating physician's office, or the ad in the local newspaper.
3) If the investigator or a nurse remembers to promote the study to a patient they feel will qualify.
The investigator is often supplied with an allowance to assist in advertising for patients who may qualify for the study. These funds are used for flyers, newspaper ads or for a local radio or television spot in which the physician may star' him/herself. As the individual advertising budgets are not large, these ads tend to be very low budget. If the ad has a cheap look or sound to it, the potential patient may be turned off by the used car' feel of the advertisement.
A good writer can develop a thirty or sixty second professional radio commercial that grabs the attention of the listeners, targets the type of patient the study requires, what the patients would receive if they qualify, and a memorable phone number. The commercial can be aired nationally or regionally so that all of the states participating in the study can be reached with one campaign. A central phone bank can perform the initial screening (a series of questions) and make the appointments for potential participants to visit with an investigator.
Buying air time in packages will provide more viewing/listening time for less money. A pharmaceutical company may not want to reach people who are too far away to travel. In the case of a rare disease, a national campaign would be most effective as patients may be willing to travel further if there is a chance that they might either contribute to the process of finding a cure, or possibly find a cure or some relief from their illness.
Hypothetically, there may be only a few hundred people in the United States right now with Glioblastoma, an ivy-like cancer of the brain. A national radio commercial has an excellent chance of reaching those few patients, and sometimes more importantly, their loved ones. This method can be more efficient and less time consuming than waiting for the patient to come to the physician who happens to be participating in the study. Often in a matter of weeks, instead of years, the number of patients necessary for a study can be screened and recruited. Only then can the actual clinical study begin.
Add up the number of investigators participating in a clinical trial, the number of patients needed, the advertising money and time spent recruiting patients. The results are more years than necessary gone by and too much money not being spent on the actual study. If the drug works, it will be approved faster. If it does not work, as many do not, this will be discovered faster, and we can move on to another way to address the many therapeutic areas that so desperately await a cure.