Clinical trials on the Web

For patients who live in small rural towns and are stricken with rare ailments, the best way to get expert care is often to enroll in clinical trials of experimental treatments or drugs. But eligible patients often have trouble finding out about such trials.

Last year, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, created an on-line listing of experimental studies sponsored by government and private industry. AIDS patients have benefited from a listing like that for some time, and it has worked well. Many AIDS patients have been able to locate state-of-the-art — usually free — treatments. Now patients with heart disease, cervical cancer, or fibromyalgia will have the opportunity to see information on research into treatment of their diseases. The agency currently has searchable data bases covering federally funded research into cancer, eye maladies, and rare diseases at www.nih.gov/health/trials/index.htm and expects to have a more complete catalog by summer.