Tufts survey shows social media still on fringes of clinical trials

It is almost four years since Facebook ($FB) passed 500 million users. And while the role of it and other social media in clinical trials has generated lots of media coverage and conference chatter, the industry is yet to fully embrace the tools. Survey data published this week show just how far there is to go.

The Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development gathered the data by quizzing 17 drugmakers and three contract research organizations, The Wall Street Journal reports. Only 13 provided data to Tufts. The reason given by some of the nonresponders is telling: They didn't have any social media activity to report. The finding shows the gulf between the social media early adopters and laggards. Around 10% of trials reportedly use social media to recruit patients, but most companies have yet to even establish policies and procedures.

In companies in which social media is being used, it remains on the fringes of the business. "A lot of these initiatives are using unplanned or unmarked dollars. These are still off the larger grid and will take time before they're embraced," Tufts' director of sponsored research programs Ken Getz told the WSJ. While the finding shows the use of social media in clinical trials is yet to go mainstream, it also means the initiatives can develop in a less pressurized environment. If the projects lead to robust, scalable uses of social media, the approaches could then transfer to core development programs.

The lack of FDA guidance on the use of social media in drug development is holding back adoption, Getz said, but many companies are still slowly introducing it into aspects of their trials. Two-thirds of respondents plan to increase use of social media to recruit patients in the U.S., compared to around 40% in Europe. 

- read the WSJ post (sub. req.)