These days China is reeling from an HIV and AIDS epidemic that could infect 10 million people by the end of the decade, the United Nations says. The good news is that Western drugmakers are clamoring to begin clinical trials of new drugs on the mainland. China offers them a means of doing expensive trials on the cheap, and the possibility of a potentially lucrative market for new drugs, which by some estimates will be worth $50 billion in five years. China’s patients stand to benefit from new treatments, while doctors get experience running trials.
Poor practices, say experts, threaten to undermine this arrangement. The combination of an underfunded medical system, poor enforcement of regulations and widespread poverty is a “perfect storm,” says Bates Gill, a Washington, D.C.-based China specialist, that could erode trust between China’s sick and dying and its medical establishment.