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What challenges still face clinical trial recruitment and retention?

Discover the reasons for the current clinical trial recruitment challenges facing pharma and the life sciences industry, and how the search for solutions to the problem continues

In 15-20% of cases, companies are unable to recruit any participants at all, while 50% of trials are delayed because of this problem. These delays cost money, causing losses between $600,000 and $8 million per day according to a study by CenterWatch, and the knock-on effect has a substantial impact on the industry.

No one really knows about clinical trials

So, what are the reasons for the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining patients in clinical trials? Research shows much of the problem revolves around awareness. Statistics indicate 57% of U.S. adults have never seen an advertisement for a clinical trial, while 50% have never even heard of the concept. In the UK, the numbers are even steeper with a full 85% of respondents completely unaware that they can participate in these trials. This statistic is surprising when we consider that 75% of UK respondents said they would be willing to take part in a trial if they were offered the opportunity.

Clinical trials have a bad retention

Another problem is the negative press some clinical trials have received in the past, such as a 2006 trial on subjects who became known as ‘elephant men’. Six participants ended up in critical condition. This story is still quoted by the press, and when combined with plots used in films and TV shows, it has promoted the idea that clinical trials can literally be a dance with the devil.

Patients keep dropping out

Even when recruitment is successful it’s often short-lived, with typically a quarter of participants dropping out before the end of the trial. Historically, enrolment in clinical trials dropped by 16% between 2000 and 2006, while retention slumped by 21% during the same period, resulting in more than two-thirds of trials failing to meet their goals. While the financial cost of this result is remarkable, even more so is the potential cost in quality and quantity of lives lost without approved treatments.

Finding workable solutions

The good news is that there are solutions to be found, if you know where to look. It comes down largely to communication, which admittedly large pharma isn’t all that good at. There’s a huge role for social media and mobile technology to play, if we can overcome the privacy risks and concerns. The importance is finding a way to break down the disconnect that has evolved between health seekers and manufacturers.

Whether this requires us to customise information for various cultural groups, leverage social media and mobile technology, build storytelling into healthcare communications, or revisit the way trials are managed, it’s imperative we identify and implement the right solution.

Blog was initally posted here.

5th April 2020

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