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Exploring clinical trial recruitment strategies that work

by WilliamJohanna

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A clinical trial is the penultimate stage before a new drug or medical device hits the market. It is the culmination of many months of laboratory experiments and animal studies. For a drug to get this far is certainly a remarkable feat because only a very tiny proportion of new drugs make it to the clinical trial stage.


It is worth appreciating that delayed or drawn out clinical trials are very costly to drug companies. The major obstacle to timely and efficient clinical trials is the difficulty companies' face in recruiting and retaining participants for the trials. Patient retention is especially tricky because patients reserve the right to call it quits at any point and there in nothing a researcher can do to stop them. The onus is therefore on drug companies to come up with clinical trial recruitment strategies that'll encourage patients to sign up for trials and also motivate them to stay until the end.


Before recruitment commences, an effective clinical trials marketing strategy should be put in place. Such a prerequisite is essential for the success of an upcoming recruitment drive because unless people are informed of upcoming or ongoing clinical trials they will not volunteer. To maximize the number of volunteers therefore, clinical trials marketing should be done extensively both in terms of geographical area and in terms of the numbers of people reached. Patient recruiters can employ various channels to do trials marketing such as the mass media, calling up people who are likely to qualify for a trial, mailing brochures to potential recruits, speaking to patient associations like cancer support groups, and indeed many other recruitment strategies that will prove to be appropriate.


It's not enough for a recruiter to inform people about clinical trials and then sit back and wait for them to sign up because few, if any, will. The recruiter must take the clinical trials marketing effort a step further and actively engage the patients before asking them to sign up. Patients will definitely have numerous questions that they'll want answered and the recruiter must have all the answers. People will want to know what they will gain from the trial once they volunteer. They'll want to know what volunteering for the study will cost them and whether they will be compensated. Patients will also be concerned about any side-effects the trial could have on their health. How well a recruiter responds to these and many other issues will influence the patients' willingness to enroll in a trial.


Using unethical clinical trial recruitment strategies is likely to backfire on the researcher and could cause the trial results to be rejected. Withholding or misrepresenting important information from volunteers to encourage them to sign up, blowing up the benefits of participating, downplaying any adverse side-effects, coercing vulnerable people to sign up, or enlisting patients without their full informed consent, are among the recruitment strategies that drug companies must avoid. A company using such strategies is bound to run into trouble sooner or later. It shouldn't be surprising if all the patients walk out of the study as soon as they realize they are being used unfairly. Even if they don't, the validity of the study can be questioned due to poor recruitment strategies.


Because patient recruitment and retention is often challenging, hiring expert patient recruitment consultants is always a good idea.




For more information about clinical trial recruitment strategies please visit

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