Social media jump-starts stalled patient recruitment efforts

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Drug developers have picked up social media and online tools to find patients for clinical trials, realizing benefits beyond just getting qualified participants into their studies. Groups have found other perks such as the ability to stay connected with patients and build a network of people to tap for future recruitment drives. 

As more people go online to learn about their health, companies and nonprofits are seizing the opportunity to grab their attention and get them interested in clinical trials. For instance, Quintiles, the contract research powerhouse, has a drug information site called MediGuard.org that allows patients who sign up for accounts to opt in to receive info on clinical research. Together with its ClinicalResearch.com site with trials info, the CRO has been able to use the websites to attract patients to clinical trials.

Clinical trials have no chance of succeeding if developers fail to recruit patients for the studies. About 80% of trials fall short in meeting timelines for patient recruitment, and delays in developing a drug can cost companies millions of dollars per day, iHealthBeat reported on March 1.

However, online recruitment has shown in some cases that it is able to beat enrollment deadlines. Inspire.com, a website with online patient communities, was given a year to find about 10 patients for a lung cancer study and was able to tap 15 patients for the trial within three months, the company's co-founder and Vice President of Partnerships Amir Lewkowicz told iHealthBeat. Also, the Dr. Susan Love Foundation, a group focused on breast cancer, created an online community called Army of Women, which has helped 61 researchers find patients for studies.

Facebook helps us stay in touch with friends and family, yet the social network and other platforms have enabled drug researchers to maintain relationships with patients.

"When we follow the patient experience through screening, if they don't qualify they're just turned away," Jodi Snare, senior director of digital strategy with Quintiles, told iHealthBeat. "Would we be able to interest them in a study later on? Maybe, maybe not, but now we catch them" because we maintain an online relationship with patients, she added.

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