Clinical Trials Could Get More Help From Social Media

July 20, 2013
125 Views

A few months ago, I discussed the development of a patient-centered clinical trial, in which participants could access their own health data and even help design more personalized clinical testing protocols. Much of this activity would happen online, which begs the next question: can the online patient-centered trial model be used to drive more people to volunteer for trials?

A few months ago, I discussed the development of a patient-centered clinical trial, in which participants could access their own health data and even help design more personalized clinical testing protocols. Much of this activity would happen online, which begs the next question: can the online patient-centered trial model be used to drive more people to volunteer for trials?

Recruiting enough participants has long been a significant challenge for clinical trial coordinators. Poor site selection and slow recruitment are the biggest reasons for clinical trial delays (which in turn, are the biggest reasons for slower drug approvals). As of 2010, it took 6.8 years on average to complete the clinical trials component of a drug’s development, out of 8.3 years to finish the entire cycle from IND to NDA. On average, recruitment delays add 4.6 months to the clinical trial process—on top of all the other factors that delay trials, this is one we can control.Image

Social media may offer one solution for driving clinical trial recruitment online. Anybody who has counted the number of hits on a YouTube dancing cat video knows that social media outlets have huge followings, and untold thousands of specialty communities are found on virtually every platform. Patient groups organized around specific disorders are particularly abundant.

Recognizing this phenomenon, the online clinical trial search tool PatientsLikeMe linked contract research organizations (CROs) with social network participants to boost recruitment efforts. Working with the CRO inVentiv Health, PatientsLikeMe will allow inVentiv Health to target patients from its network of 200,000 people, all of whom are engaged in health discussions of 1,500 diseases and conditions. InVentiv, then, can match these people to clinical trials currently recruiting.

Such social media tools may reduce the need for multiple trial sites, and can get trial coordinators in touch more quickly with potential participants, thus accelerating the trial process. Social media group participants are not only engaged in health issues, they also are conversant with online participation techniques; a perfect combination for trial recruitment. In addition, inVentiv and Mytrus created software that allows online informed consent (that technology has been approved by the FDA). The barriers to allowing online recruitment and even to conducting of many clinical trials are falling down; now more CROs and social media sites can follow the lead of PatientsLikeMe and inVentiv.

image: socialmedia/shutterstock

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