Sanofi hunts for clinical trial recruits in growing social network

Sanofi has gone online in search of patients for clinical trials, partnering with the social network PatientsLikeMe and a healthcare nonprofit to inform patients about trials and match them with appropriate studies from the French drug giant ($SNY).

The partnership shows how pharma companies are embracing social media to address challenges in drug development. For Sanofi and other drug researchers, success in clinical trials depends on finding the right patients to participate in the studies, and the industry has struggled to meet recruitment quotas on schedule with traditional outreach. Pfizer ($PFE), for instance, tested out Facebook ($FB) and Craigslist as venues to promote a virtual clinical trial last year, yet the drug giant struggled with enrollment.

Web entrepreneurs have taken note of the challenges in pharma. Cambridge, MA-based PatientsLikeMe has supported the growth of its social media platform through previous collaborations with pharma groups such as Merck ($MRK) and Novartis ($NVS). In the partnership with Sanofi, PatientsLikeMe will give patients a trial search tool for them to identify studies from the drugmaker that suit their needs. Sanofi could find a host of qualified subjects for studies of treatments against such illnesses as cancer, diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease.

"Tens of thousands of people are actively engaged in monitoring their health and sharing their experiences on PatientsLikeMe," PatientsLikeMe Chairman Jamie Heywood said in a release. "They're not just helping each other, but contributing directly to research. They are heroes in the truest sense, ideal partners for medical discovery, and the best source for real-world, real-time evidence."

PatientsLikeMe got its start with an online community in 2006 for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a rare neurodegenerative disease that claimed the life of Stephen Heywood, whose brothers Ben and Jamie Heywood co-founded the company to help patients like him who are hunting for ways to improve their health. The social network now has more than 200,000 members with more than 1,500 diseases, PMLive reported. And patients are encouraged to participate in appropriate studies to advance new treatments for their diseases.

The Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, a nonprofit advocate for trials, has a role in Sanofi and PatientsLikeMe's collaboration too. The nonprofit plans to provide educational materials to patients and their families about the benefits of taking part in trials and the process of enrolling.

- here's the release
- check out PMLive's article

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