Updated on 4 July 2012
Patient recruitment and retention are often major challenges in clinical trials
Recruitment and retention of research participants is often the most labor-intensive and difficult component of clinical trials. Poor recruitment and retention frequently pose major barriers in the successful completion of clinical trials. In fact, many studies are prematurely terminated, or their findings questioned due to low recruitment and retention rates.
Achieving clinical trial research participant enrollment is essential to conducting a successful trial. Adequate enrolment provides a base for projected participant retention, resulting in evaluative patient data. Without sufficient patient retention from the time of study initiation to closure, it may be too small a pool to for conclusive proving or disproving of the goals.
For more than a decade, the emerging markets of the Asia Pacific region have held special promise for the global pharmaceutical industry. Driven by a combination of low per capita consumption, rapidly expanding economies, technological innovation and a talented workforce, the region has seen explosive growth in both economic and political power during the past 10 years. Today, China and India stand on the threshold of being global superpowers, while a range of factors such as deregulation, better trade links, improved access and rise in medical tourism have enabled markets such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and others to take on increasingly important roles in the region.
Recruitment is approached as a separate process from the research protocol. Lack of collaboration between the principal investigators and research coordinators perpetuates the problem because the criteria for entry into a trial are often so exclusionary that it makes recruitment even more challenging. Lack of follow-up systems contribute to losing patients before they have completed a trial. For example, many trial sites do not follow up with participants to let them know when the trial has ended, or the results of the research and the contribution it made to medical knowledge.
We probably do our worst when it comes to retention and the acknowledgement of the valuable contribution that a volunteer makes. There is a lot of data showing that once the patient has participated in the trial and they are familiar with the professionalism and integrity of the research system, they become ambassadors and can play a valuable part as a member of the public in helping shape an understanding of this enterprise and its value. And we do that with a number of different kinds of programs.