It’s no secret that the recruitment process is often the most difficult part for a clinical trial. Just to give an example, let’s analyze a report from the Pharmaceutical Technology website. The report states that 15 – 20% of trials never enroll a single patient.
This same report then describes that recruitment numbers in clinical trials are decreasing, hence increasing its difficult to continue or finish. Historical trends estimate that enrolment rates slumped from 75% in 2000 to 59% in 2006.
Now consider this: Most of the time clinicians believe that their innovative medicine or treatment is good enough to promote itself among the targeted benefactors. Other times they consider that the population receiving the benefits of the clinical trial is so great that it guarantees an easy enrolment. Those two thoughts are just samples of common mistakes that often lead to failure.
Careful, I’m not saying that both statements are incorrect. Maybe the medicine is great, maybe the population is vast. The one thing that is not right is the approach.
Let’s face it! Clinical trials are often perceived as cold and structured. And even tough that perception is sometimes not far from reality, we need to make volunteers feel appreciated. I’m not talking about giving them promotional merchandise or else, I’m talking about the attitude perceived by them. That’s the approach!
So the following reasons are a compilation of my experiences applying marketing strategies while looking for recruiting patients for clinical trials.
1. Un-displayed Merchandise is never sold.
One of the problems recruiters have is “targets unawareness.” Let’s define targets as the people who need these studies. Most of them are willing to volunteer, others are even looking for clinical trials for their conditions. Nevertheless they don’t know that these studies exist or aren’t able to find them.
Another case takes place when people who know about clinical trials assume that their physician will recommend them to join a study. The problem here starts when most physicians can’t be certain about all the studies being developed at the moment or their current status, not to mention the contacts.
A simple promotion strategy could ease these problems. Promotion would raise awareness among the targeted volunteers, and that may even work for future studies in the same region.
2. Bad Advertisement, False perceptions
Honest. Clinical trials are not well seen outside the industry. Educating is the best way to fight this misconception. Creating memorable content and spread it out there will increase good perception about the industry.
Using segmentation, positioning and the basic marketing mix strategies will turn those “I don’t want to volunteer” to “Please I want to participate, how can I apply?” and since we are in the digital era, the cost will be really low.
3. Saving Money! Saving Time!
At your perspective, what is more expensive? What takes the most time?
- Conducting several regulatory submissions for different sites in different states or countries. Export/Import licenses. Monitoring visits cost for each site, some of them in different countries.
- Working on a marketing plan where you can include the people you already targeted in the protocol, submitting a promotion strategy to the ethics committee and then, once approved, running that strategy to get to your targeted patients and volunteers. (Everything while getting the approval to start-up you research).
Long story short, opening several sites in different places to get the adequate number of volunteers for your clinical trials is way more expensive than a marketing plan targeting those same volunteers to reach one site. Make them come to you. By using the right strategies you will not only save money, you will save time.
Sponsors! Next time you are looking for several sites to start your research ask your CRO about improving your patient recruitment using marketing strategies.
CROs! Look for SMOs with this service. If they’re not offering this, ask them. Use their local knowledge for the benefit of everybody!
About FOMAT’s Patient Recruitment/Retention Marketing Strategies
FOMAT Medical Research offers this service for your clinical trials. I personally establish the proper strategies to follow your main objectives. We can reach the populatio¿n you want to help!
Meet the author
Ivan Velez is one of our Marketing Coordinators at FOMAT Medical Research.
He’s also in charge of helping the Medical and Clinical Coordinators in the recruitment process.