Quintiles starts digital unit in online hunt for study patients

Quintiles has boosted its drive to recruit patients for clinical trials with the launch of its Digital Patient Unit, which consists of existing websites that enable the giant CRO to steer seekers of online health information toward trials. The new group's leader, David Coman, tells FierceBiotechIT that online patient recruitment could ease the expensive burdens associated with tapping patients for studies.

Two websites will factor significantly into the new business unit's plans, MediGuard.org and ClinicalResearch.com, according to Quintiles' announcement Tuesday. MediGuard, which went online in 2007 and has 2.5 million registered users, is a website that lets patients enter all the meds they take and can alert them of safety risks associated with the treatments and harmful drug interactions. Coman said in an interview that 95% of people who register to use the site opt in to get info about clinical research. And ClinicalResearch, which went live in 2009 and has 165,000 users, provides patients with data about clinical trials in which they might be able to participate.

Patient recruitment remains one of the toughest challenges in drug development, and the promotions and resources that go into getting patients enrolled in studies carry one of the biggest costs of starting a trial. While traditional outreach to doctors and patient groups are unlikely to be replaced with online recruitment for trials anytime soon, groups have been tapping social media websites such as Facebook and online communities for patients with some success. And Research Triangle Park, NC-based Quintiles, the world's largest provider of pharma services such as running clinical trials, has a lot to gain from improvements in patient recruitment.

"Being able to effectively mobilize patients [for clinical trials and other studies] is one of the core fundamental issues that we need to address," said Coman, a senior vice president at Quintiles, who is leading the new digital unit. There's no shortage of patients searching the Internet for information about their health. "The ability to find patients online is not a problem," Coman added. "The challenge is to offer them something of value today." He added that MediGuard and ClinicalResearch provide such value.

With companies seeking patients all over the world to test drugs, Coman said a key aim of the digital patient group is to have a global reach. For instance, MediGuard has established user bases in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Spain and Australia. "If you look at the sites that we have, and the solutions that we're building, they are all very global in nature," he said. "We've made a very conscious decision to go beyond U.S. borders."

- here's the release
- see the report from The News & Observer
- and MedCity News' article

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