Why Patients Drop Out of Clinical Trials and What Marketers Can Do About It

November 27, 2014
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Attracting patients for a clinical trial is one thing, keeping them involved from start to finish is another. Clinical trial marketers face the constant challenge of recruiting patients for clinical trials; however, dropouts can jeopardize the results of a trial, wasting valuable resources. For example, in “The Prevention and Treatment of Missing Data in Clinical Trials,” the authors suggest that dropout rates in certain studies can be as high as 30%.

Attracting patients for a clinical trial is one thing, keeping them involved from start to finish is another. Clinical trial marketers face the constant challenge of recruiting patients for clinical trials; however, dropouts can jeopardize the results of a trial, wasting valuable resources. For example, in “The Prevention and Treatment of Missing Data in Clinical Trials,” the authors suggest that dropout rates in certain studies can be as high as 30%. That level of attrition can seriously compromise the results of a study.Clinical Trial Marketing, Clinical Trial Participation, Clinical Trial Recruitment

Fortunately, there are ways clinical trial marketers can help to reduce the percentage of participants that drop out of a study. Here are a few of the top reasons patients drop out of clinical trials, and several things marketers can do to improve the chances patients will participate until the end of the study.

1. Redundancies and time inefficiency

One of the major reasons patients drop out of a study is because of the time commitment. Data collection can be a prominent source of wasted time for patients because redundancies are often present.

According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, the length of the average clinical trial rose by 70% from 1999 to 2006. With the length of time necessary to complete a study from start to finish ever-increasing, it is essential that marketers encourage designers to eliminate as many redundancies in the data collection process as possible.

Reducing redundancies and collecting only the data that is necessary for that visit will help to decrease the time commitment for patients participating in the study. Utilizing technology to collect data remotely without an in-person visit can also reduce the burden on patients.

2. No incentive to complete the study

Some members of a clinical trial will see results that improve their condition, which provides enough incentive to continue participation in a study. However, for many participants, results may not be readily apparent, patients may be a part of a control group, or they may have seen results early in a study but then plateau. Clinical trials in obesity have been particularly vulnerable to criticism because of dropouts.

Marketers should suggest that there be proper incentives throughout the trial that motivate people who may not realize tremendous benefits, but are still integral to the success of study.

3. Insufficient training for investigators

It is impossible to prevent every patient from dropping out of a study—some attrition is inevitable. However, those patients who do opt to stop receiving treatment may still be able to provide valuable data for the study. Ensuring that investigators are properly trained to extract data from participants who have stopped receiving treatment can create more comprehensive results for the study. Marketers may also encourage study designers to provide investigators with incentives for pursuing comprehensive data results.

Understanding why patients leave a study is critical information for clinical marketers. Addressing these issues before patients abandon participation in a study can save valuable assets and increase the chances the results of a study will be valid.