Big Pharma is testing more drugs in China, where studies cost less and a big, aging population has more chronic ailments, Time reports. But critics question the country's product safety and ponder the fate of tested patients. Even Big Pharma is concerned—about intellectual property rights—but the lure of cheap testing and low salaries inspired them to double R&D in China last year.
"Of course money plays a role in the decision to do business there," said a researcher at global titan Roche. But China's doctors like it too: Patients "are getting advanced care without worrying about the price," said one. "It's the difference between life and death." Financial stakes are also high, as Big Pharma is under pressure to replace $29 billion in patents that will expire by 2009.