Patients Emerging as Increasingly Important Clinical Trial Advocates

Editors Note: This blog was originally published by Michael Causey from ACRP

While physicians remain the most common “trusted agents” promoting clinical trials, patients themselves are increasingly becoming a stronger force in spreading the word, says Amanda Wright, executive director of Greater Gift, an initiative for advancing global health and highlighting clinical trial participation.

As patients become more engaged in their own health and choose the option of participating in a clinical trial, they constitute an important resource that is sometimes overlooked by sponsors, contract research organizations (CROs), and others in the clinical trial ecosystem.

“Look at the T.J. Sharpes of the world,” Wright said. Sharpe, a cancer survivor and motivational speaker, is an active and visible clinical trial advocate (Read: Cancer Survivor Calls for New Ways to Promote Trial Participation).

In a recent survey conducted by Greater Gift, nearly 90% of respondents said they wanted to receive information about clinical trials from physicians, nearly 60% cited clinical research sites, and just under 50% said family or friends. Watch the latter number climb, Wright predicted.

The survey was based on feedback from the Hero’s Journey™ Art Project event held in Winston-Salem, N.C. last November and sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company. The project was designed to combine science and art to convey the importance of clinical trial participation and raise awareness for clinical research. More than 300 “bricks” decorated by project volunteers were displayed in the sculpture named “Return”; the display speaks to the perceptions and feelings of each brick artist centered on clinical research.

Some 400 people attended the event, and 80 responded to the survey. Respondents were divided roughly equally between community members, physicians, representatives of sponsors and CROs, and other life sciences professionals. More than two-thirds of attendees said they have never participated in a clinical trial.

“Seeing the community of Winston-Salem come together to honor clinical trial participants and raise awareness of the importance of clinical research is exactly what we envisioned for the Hero’s Journey Art Project,” said Kelly McKee, of Lilly’s Clinical Innovation team. “We hope that community events such as this will help to reshape the way that we speak about clinical research, inspiring more individuals to learn more.”

The feedback from Winston-Salem suggested similar events could increase clinical trial enrollment rates. Before the event, 25% of respondents said they were “probably not willing” or “not willing” to participate in a trial. That figure dropped to 12% after the event. Nearly 60% said they were “somewhat willing” after the event, up from a little more than 40% prior to the event. Those who said they would “definitely” participate inched up to 29%, from 26%. Collectively, the data shows increased willingness to participate following the event experience.