The clinical trial is getting a face lift. German drugmaker BASF and researchers at the University of Florida are using the Web to radically change the cost and process of running trials, which can take up to 10 years, cost half a billion dollars, and fill millions of pieces of paper. In 1997, the team began the first completely Web-based clinical trial, designed to test the effectiveness of BASF's high-blood-pressure drug. Some 20,000 patients at more than 1,000 medical centers in 10 countries have been enrolled. The cost of the trial, expected to be completed in 2002, has been cut from hundreds of millions to $35 million. If this process is widely adopted, the effort could get better medicines to market faster and more cheaply. No more driving 18-wheelers up to the FDA loaded with a million pieces of paper. What an easy pill to swallow.

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