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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Will your clinical trial blend?

By Harry Yeates

Since 2006, Tom Dickson, the founder of US liquidiser brand Blendtec, has demonstrated the superiority of his machines by using them to reduce unlikely objects – from iPhones, to a skeleton, to a model stormtrooper from Star Wars – to dust. As if the latest object might finally prove to be the Blendtec’s undoing, he starts each of the 187 videos on his YouTube channel with the same tantalising question: ‘Will it blend?’

It’s arguable whether a blender really needs to be able to whizz up a lightbulb, but what is it for, ultimately, except blending? If it can make a glow stick smoothie then it’s just better than one that can’t. That’s the whole idea behind the hyperbole meets reality recipe, and despite the silliness there is power in the question. Is your service, or product, or idea, up to scratch? Does it meet the full definition? Does it blend?

Blendtec’s videos slowly worked their way into my brain after a conversation I had a couple of months ago with Liz Beatty from heath technology start-up Inato (you can read the resulting article here). She shared the startling statistic that, over the last decade, 70% of all trials have been conducted at just 5% of available sites. She also revealed that it takes a sponsor 70% longer to start up a completely new trial site than to go back to one they’ve worked with previously.

Maybe facts like these explain both the representation problem in clinical trials, and the industry’s struggles to address them. In December 2020, however, following the societal upheaval of this year’s Black Lives Matter protests, and the health disparities spotlighted so sharply by COVID-19, we should be clear on what a clinical trial is for, ultimately. And if yours isn’t enrolling a representative population, it doesn’t blend.

Harry Yeates, Strategy Director, Langland

21st December 2020

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