Clinical-trial participants and their carers are gaining influence over how experiments are run. As they take to social media, that could make thing

Medical centres and pharmaceutical companies have noticed the power of social media to draw in patients. Some have launched efforts to advertise trials, for example to targeted Facebook groups. The hope is that it could help trial recruiters to tackle a growing problem: a shortage of participants that has been stretching the time required to do clinical research.

As companies increasingly focus on rare diseases and precision medi- cine tailored to a specific subset of patients, it has become more difficult to find willing volunteers who meet the necessary criteria. Recruitment and retention rates are the worst that they’ve been since the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development started tracking them 20 years ago, says Kenneth Getz, who studies clinical trials at the centre in Boston, Massachusetts.

“Industry-wide,everybody recognizes this as a huge problem,”says James Nolan, chief executive at InClinica, a contract-research organization in Wayne, Pennsylvania, that conducts clinical trials. “It’s not going away — it’s going to get much worse.”

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