Clinical trial recruitment is an increasingly difficult obstacle for drug development companies, as regulatory agencies such as the FDA and EMA require more rigorous testing of investigational therapies, and patient populations become further fragmented due to competing clinical trials. While Phase 1 clinical trials are often limited and scope and require a manageable number of participants and test centers, Phase 2 and 3 studies are wide-ranging and require large numbers of patients, further increasing the pressure to find and engage with the right patient groups for a particular trial. According to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development 2016 R&D Management Report on Patient Recruitment and Retention, in spite of the high number of participants needs for a successful succession of clinical trials, “11% of sites in a given trial failing to enroll a single patient—and less than half of all patients screened for clinical trials actually complete them.” The difficulty in enrolling participants only increases the pressure on engaging the right group of patients to accelerate recruitment.
For European drug developers, clinical trials that include investigational sites in the United States are often an important part of trial design, for a number of reasons: the multi-lingual, multi-national challenges of Europe as well as a less-developed infrastructure for using advertising and digital outreach for clinical trial recruitment can make Europe a difficult place to recruit patients and manage trials. On the other hand, the US benefits from a single language, large patient populations, and an accessible digital platform for reaching patients, as well as traditional media advertising for ramping up recruitment efforts.
However, for European pharmaceutical companies with no footprint in the US, finding a cost-effective entrance into US clinical trial recruitment can be daunting. US-based CROs specialize in setting up and managing clinical trials, but their budgets can be prohibitive for small pharma companies who, though directly tethered to the success of recruitment for their trial and therapy to succeed, are also constrained by limited resources. Often times, a sizable portion of the clinical trial budget is swallowed up not by the recruitment of patients, but rather by finding test centers and physicians who will participate. By the time test centers are ready to begin enrolling patients, there are few levers left for European drug developers to pull in order to cut through the noise and reach US patients — both through traditional and digital media.
Foundations often offer access to patients through lists, which can provide an initial boost to recruitment efforts. The use of such lists, however, is not necessarily sustainable, as leveraging them over and over produces diminishing results. Some small pharma companies may even resort to spending limited funds on direct media advertising — such as TV and radio ads — or on digital media, such as Google AdWords. These channels can be effective if budgets are large, but are often dominated by other players in the market who have far larger advertising and promotional budgets and can monopolize paid visibility.
Considering that delays in getting clinical trials enrolled can cost companies as much as $1.3 million daily in lost sales, according to CenterWatch, European pharmaceutical companies need to find creative, cost-effective solutions for reaching US patient populations to bolster recruitment goals.
The vanguard of clinical trial recruitment and enrollment is leveraging digital channels that directly engage with patient communities online. There is a new industry vertical in clinical trial recruitment that is building the infrastructure for reaching patients directly, as opposed to the outmoded model of educating and informing physicians, who in turn “sell” the trial to their patients. Because patients are increasingly taking control of their own disease management and becoming experts in the diseases that afflict them, there are powerful, new opportunities to make contact with them directly for the purposes of clinical trial enrollment.
Often times, these new digital channels are also exceedingly more cost-effective than traditional mass advertising.
Digital media offers several different channels for reaching out to patients online. Social media websites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, are the most apparent platforms for accessing patient populations online, since these websites not only offer organizing infrastructure for various groups, but also ad targeting features for serving content to targeted groups. Patient communities are highly active in social media, sharing news and insights about recent developments, advocacy efforts, and support to patients and their families.
Search engines are another way to make contact with patients, since it is the vehicle by which patients search and access information and news about their health and disease. Google, Bing, and Yahoo also offer targeted ads for specific search terms, however, organic search drives the most trusted, engaged search traffic, and patient-centric websites that rank well for relevant search terms have a unique, one-on-one reach into patient communities.
Finally, e-mail subscriptions offer drug developers perhaps the most direct avenue to gaining the attention of patient groups. Websites that create and distribute content to patients often encourage their users to subscribe to newsletters and weekly digests, which in turn become vehicles for clinical trial engagement and recruitment. Digital marketers have known for a long while that e-mail marketing is the gold standard in the industry, and it is experiencing a renaissance, thanks to mobile computing. According to recent research, 55% of e-mail opens from subscriptions take place on mobile, with 75% of Gmail’s 900 million users accessing their accounts on mobile devices. In addition, according to Mailigen, 89% of marketers say that email is their primary channel for lead generation.
Since clinical trial recruitment efforts online are synonymous with lead generation, accessing targeted e-mail lists, together with gaining visibility in search and engaging with patients in social media are winning strategies that are infinitely more targeted and cost-effective than mass marketing and advertising.
Immersive Engagement With BioNews
BioNews Services’ network of 40+ disease-specific news websites offers drug development firms the opportunity to tap into highly engaged patient networks in order to accelerate clinical trial recruitment. Our websites anchor a synergy of daily news content, social media engagement, and leveraging of burgeoning subscriber lists that give pharmaceutical companies — and smaller drug developers as well as European companies — an incredibly cost-effective means of accelerating recruitment in the US. Because competition for courting patient populations for clinical trials has intensified, making contact with patients through BioNews’ multi-channel approach is a key advantage.
With BioNews, the approach to making contact with potential US clinical trial participants is not simply about placing ads; branded and non-branded content, social media outreach, and creative multimedia all come together to forge multiple, unique touch points with the people you’re trying to reach.
If you’re looking to penetrate the US marketplace and enroll clinical trials, BioNews provide a cost competitive solution for leveling the playing field.
To find out more about our clinical trial recruitment services, click here.
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