Big pharma tackles patient recruitment challenges, but we have a long way to go

Yesterday, Pfizer and Private Access, a search technology firm, announced that they’re joining forces to create an online community aimed at increasing awareness and participation in clinical trials.

According to this Fierce Biotech article, "Nearly 85 percent of patients in a recent survey stated they were unaware that clinical trials were a possible treatment option, and 31 percent of physicians surveyed did not refer patients to trials due to, among other things, lack of information."

The statistics for cancer clinical trials are even more dismal.  Earlier this month, the New York Times’ "Lack of Study Volunteers Hobbles Cancer Fight" reported the well-known statistic that only 3 percent of cancer patients participate in trials for new treatments.  As the article explains, “There are more than 6,500 cancer clinical trials seeking adult patients, according to … but many will be abandoned along the way.”

In fact, only half of the trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute fail to reach the minimum needed for a meaningful result, according to cancer researcher and health economist Dr. Scott Ramsey and his colleague John Scoggins in an editorial in the September 2008 issue of The Oncologist. Furthermore, more than one in five NCI trials failed to enroll a single subject.

Their conclusion:  “Research sponsors, researchers, and journal editors should redouble their efforts to encourage publication of registered clinical trials in oncology.”

As patient recruitment costs continue to skyrocket as enrollment statistics decline, we couldn’t agree more.  Rapid, efficient patient recruitment is, without a doubt, a major barrier preventing our industry from successfully delivering promising new treatments to patients.

Links to the stories: