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Inefficient and outdated clinical trial recruitment practices are causing serious problems for the Pharma industry and healthcare consumers alike.

The pharmaceutical industry has a crisis on its hands — clinical trials have become exponentially more expensive in recent years, a trend that’s showing no sign of slowing down. Cutting Edge Information found that between 2008 and 2013, the average total price tag of conducting a clinical trial rose by a whopping 60%. Tufts research estimates that the average cost of getting a new prescription drug approved is now nearly $2.6 million. Unfortunately for the industry, this surge in costs comes at a time when clinical approval success rates are dropping across the country (they’ve dipped more than 40% since 2005).

Why is this happening? According to industry experts like the Eastern Research Group, many of these issues can be traced back to ineffective clinical recruitment practices. In fact, 27% of the total costs of a clinical trial can be attributed to patient recruitment and enrollment. However, approximately 20% of trials fail to successfully enroll a single patient, and as a result, a whopping 37% of all sites in a given trial fail to meet enrollment targets.

A Growing Problem

If these trends continue, there may be a growing disincentive for major pharmaceutical organizations to invest in new drugs, devices, and other innovative treatments. At the bare minimum, the cost of care for the consumer will undoubtedly continue to increase by significant margins year-over-year.

According to recent research from Aon, the average American worker’s health care costs have increased by 134% over the past decade. Premiums have jumped 303% over the same period, far outpacing both wage growth and inflation, and they’re expected to increase by an additional 16% in 2017. Alarmingly, as these costs continue to rise, more and more consumers are being forced to forego vital care — in fact, the number of patients that have chosen to skip appointments or treatment due to cost has already hit the 30% mark.

So what’s really going on here? In large part, these issues stem from the industry’s failure to adapt to changing consumer preferences and expectations, which have undergone a massive shift in the last decade. Today, more and more patients are relying on the internet as their primary resource for both symptom research and making important decisions about care. This represents a profound opportunity for trial sponsors to reach a greater number of qualified candidates more efficiently, while simultaneously reducing operational costs and wasted resources.

New and Effective Solutions

Perhaps the biggest benefit of digital advertising is that it enables you to deliver personalized messages directly to patients who are actively looking for resources and treatment options. The result of these targeted, keyword-driven campaigns is typically a lower cost per click (CPC) and cost per referral (CPR), and a much higher conversion rate. On average, this approach generates more qualified patients at a lower cost than almost any other ad type — this is especially true in comparison to traditional media buys like TV, radio, and print, but also applies to other forms of digital media, such as banner ads. The process is also highly trackable, enabling continuous optimization in accordance with performance data in real-time.

In the past, we’ve been able to reduce overall marketing costs for our clients by as much as 64%, resulting in a CPR of just $99. By striking a strategic balance between a variety of digital tactics and platforms, including search engine and social media advertising, solid website design, patient education, and intelligent lead tracking, sponsors will not only see a massive boost to their recruitment ROI -- they’ll also be able to pass those savings on to consumers, making drugs and other medical products more available and affordable to the people who need them most.