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pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials and recruitment through social media

In occasion of clinical trials awareness week #CTAW2017 I ask myself how can pharmaceutical companies use social media to increase awareness of and participation in pharmaceutical-sponsored clinical trials.

question 1: why use social media to recruit patients in the first place?

  • clinical trials were the second largest category after about support and prevention to be discussed online
  • patients today are more empowered, more informed and more demanding
  • there is a lack of awareness among patient and physicians that clinical trials are available
  • competition for patient recruitment is fierce
  • there is motivation to look into novel methods to recruit potentially eligible individuals in clinical trials
  • social media has the ability to narrow target audience of interest
  • social media serve as a promising solution to improve the public awareness and to support the recruitment

question 2: is there an opportunity to increase pharmaceutical sponsored clinical trials recruitment through social media?

  • the internet and social media provides an inexpensive and free access to potential research participants
  • social media is more cost effective when compared to other advertising channels
  • social media has the potential to work with traditional methods to increase awareness of clinical trials
  • online health patient communities and patient advocacy groups often have a very active social media presence
  • orphan indications have patients advocacy groups that are very engaged

question 3: how can pharma partner with online communities to raise awareness of clinical trials and enrollment?

  • twitter chats provide an excellent means of networking and disseminating information on clinical trials
  • do not state what type of patients you are looking for on social media / better to link web page where patients can get further details and information or direct patients to a call center
  • it is critical to protecting patient information at all times: HIPAA and privacy
  • consider your audience:
    • younger audiences tend to use Twitter / Instagram
    • Facebook, Google AdWords, and trial websites reach 30-50 year olds

question 4: what are some of the challenges for pharma of social media engagement in recruiting patients in clinical trial participation?

  • Internal Review Board (ethics committee) approval is needed / same rules apply as for traditional information to patients regarding clinical trial participation
  • pharma needs to make sure how information will be shared during the recruitment
  • geography needs to be taken into account: where is the clinical trial located
  • is the clinical site in a remote location or area with limited internet access, or limited social media adoption
  • difficult to reach low-income areas may be left out
  • remember many may not have a smartphone, people also use free access such as libraries for internet access
  • patients sharing information or their experiences about participating in a clinical trial, this could endanger the¬†integrity of a clinical trial

question 5: what should pharma consider when rolling out an e-recruiting campaign online?

  • know the regulations:
    • FDA guidance documents on social media use / same regulations that apply to other forms of patient recruitment like TV ads and print material applies to use of social media
    • Institutional Review Boards respect to privacy and non-coercive content
    • regulatory approval of social media recruitment portals
  • have a social media recruitment strategy in place
  • understand the pros and cons of the various social media platforms and where your audience is
  • stay up to date on the trends of social media usage and troubleshooting
  • generate social media visibility, going from just posting information to more call to action focused on driving patient referrals
  • using organic versus sponsored posts
  • company accounts versus third party, which do you use
  • medical language versus lay language
  • when designing clinical trials take into account patients use of social media

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