Pharma fumbles in recruitment game as clinical trials miss goals

Drugmakers and contract researchers keep coming back to the old ways of ushering patients into clinical trials, despite poor results in certain parts of the world and the emergence of new recruitment tools. And the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development (CSDD) has given the industry mixed grades for enrollment in trials.

The industry pays close attention to recruitment figures, because selecting the right sites and regions for drug studies can impact whether an expensive clinical trial gets done on time, as delays in the development of a med can cost companies millions of dollars. Try as they might to solve recruitment problems, nearly half of study sites miss enrollment goals.

The good news from Tufts was that 9 out of 10 clinical trials hit patient-enrollment goals in its analysis of more than 150 studies that included almost 16,000 sites around the world. The tricky part is the lopsided performance of certain sites in a typical study, with 37% of trial sites not enrolling enough subjects and 11% failing to bring a single patient into a study.

In what can be difficult searches for trial subjects, Western pharma and CRO companies have emphasized sites and recruitment of patients in Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America. Latin America and Asia/Pacific were tops among regions with the highest enrollment rates, Tufts noted. And enrollment rates varied significantly among regions, with regional success rates ranging from 75% to 98%.

"Patient recruitment and retention are among the greatest challenges that the clinical research enterprise faces today, and they are a major cause of drug development delays," said Ken Getz, director of sponsored research at Tufts CSDD, in a statement. "The results of our recent study paint a complex picture of global practices and their effectiveness and characterize a very high level of investigative site performance risk."

New tools such as social media offer another way to attract patients to trials. However, Tufts found that most drugmakers and CROs haven't tapped such tools for trials, relying on traditional methods such as print and radio advertising as well as referrals from doctors.

- here's the release

Editor's Corner: Tufts: Billions wasted in pharma R&D despite new biz models