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From 2001 to 2006, the percentage of new products cut from development when drugs are first tested against placebo, rose by 20 per cent. Half of all drugs that fail in late-stage trials drop out because of their inability to beat sugar pills.
Last November, a new type of gene therapy for Parkinson's disease, championed by the Michael J Fox Foundation, was abruptly withdrawn from Phase II trials after unexpectedly tanking against placebo. A stem-cell startup called Osiris Therapeutics got a drubbing on Wall Street in March, when it suspended trials of its pill for Crohn's disease, an intestinal ailment, citing an "unusually high" response to placebo. Two days later, Eli Lilly broke off tests on a new schizophrenia drug when volunteers showed double the expected level of placebo response.
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