Tapping Social Media for Clinical Trial Recruitment

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Publication date:
April 2012
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With an estimated 80% of all clinical trials failing to achieve enrolment goals, sponsors are constantly seeking new and better techniques to attract the right patients. In 2011, nearly one in every five minutes spent online was in “Social Media”, representing 1.2 billion users around the globe. What if this revolutionary change in the way that consumers interact, as well as the growth of online patient communities, could be harnessed for clinical trial recruitment?

Firms such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis, and Avanir have gone public with the fact they have already turned to Social Media for help in recruiting.  So have governmental research entities and non-profit investigators. However, this has been a particularly tricky development for the pharmaceutical industry, because while there are strict rules on just what a drug maker can say about its products, those rules have not been adapted by regulators to the new online environment.

How are investigators harnessing Social Media for trial recruiting, while managing to comply with unclear regulations?

Tapping Social Media for Clinical Trial Recruitment is an essential, practical guide to understanding why and how trial recruiters are using Social Media channels to reach target patients.

Key features of Tapping Social Media for Clinical Trial Recruitment include:

  • The latest data and behavioural trends in Social Media usage
  • Guidance on planning a Social Media presence
  • Examples of how trial sponsors are already using social media recruiting
  • Handy checklist of ways to engage your audience through Social Media
  • Detailed advice on potential problems, including lack of regulations, privacy issues, and concerns about promotion of off-label indications
  • Predictions for the next big developments in behaviour and attitudes
  • Four Pharma Case Studies – on using Social Media to find patients with a rare disease, and to recruit candidates for Phase II, Phase IIb and Phase III trials

Key Benefits

The report begins by outlining the arguments for using this avenue for recruiting, including characteristics of Social Media users that can make them particularly receptive to trial notifications. It then moves beyond the theory to spotlight how Pharma is actually using Social Media as a recruiting tool – a development further detailed in four recent case studies of Social Media recruiting success stories. Two main approaches to using Social Media emerge from these examples – immediate recruitment and long-term relationship-building

The problems – manifest and potential – to this recruiting route are reviewed in detail; key challenges include limited official guidance, risks of sending an “invitation”, privacy issues, and dealing with ethics committees.

Finally, the report suggests where Social Media clinical trial recruitment may be heading next, and how Pharma can be ready for those changes. This report will help you to:

  • Learn from successful efforts in using Social Media for trial recruitment
  • Understand when Social Media is an appropriate channel, and when it is less so
  • Receive practical advice on what social media to use in different situations
  • Be aware of potential legal and ethical pitfalls
  • Be ready for future developments

Tapping Social Media for Clinical Trial Recruitment
answers key questions including:

  • Is Social Media a useful recruiting pathway for this clinical trial?
  • If so, which sites are most appropriate and which approach will be most productive?
  • How can I minimize exposure to regulatory problems?
  • How can I use efficacy results to adjust my approach to social media?
  • When does the IRB need to be involved?

Selected Quotes

”These are powerful communication tools that make it possible to do old work in new ways.” Lee Aase, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media

“I think social networks are too big to ignore, and two years from now I think pharma companies are going to be in a different place than they are today.” Liz Moench, president, MediciGlobal

“I think privacy is the most important thing we do … The most important thing is that the members choose what is done with their personal information.” Brian Loew, CEO, Inspire