Patients with nothing to lose conducting their own clinical trials?

I read a report in The Economist today about patients conducting their own clinical trials. Basically it takes 8 years for the FDA to approve a drug. But what if your illness only gave you 2-3 years left? It was reported that patients have started reading scientific information on drugs that have reported positive phase I trials and working out what the key active ingredient is then using the information to self-medicate.

Patients have been found to be sharing information on side-effects, dosage etc on sites like PatientsLikeMe. How useful is this data? Can pharma learn from it? Should pharma be monitoring it and responding to it? Is it their responsibility to reach out to these people? What they are doing is potentially dangerous but when people have nothing to loose you can see why they would be willing to give it a shot.

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