Recruiting for Clinical Trials Online Raises Concerns
While several Web sites have been established to link patients to clinical trials, some physicians are "wary" of the practice, the Hartford Courant reports. Clinical trials often fail because of recruitment problems, according to Dr. Bert Spilker of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. Currently, only 10% of eligible adults participate in drug trials. To boost recruitment efforts, Web-based firms, such as Veritas Medicine, drkoop.com and EmergingMed, have launched sites that can more rapidly pair "appropriate patients" with the trials. The Web sites are free to patients and include information about diseases and the clinical trials. Some Web sites charge the drug firms for every patient recruited, while others bill per trial or "block of trials." Still, while physicians involved with clinical trials are aware of the "costly" and difficult process of recruitment, some are "wary" of using the Internet. Dr. Ernesto Canalis, chair of the institutional review board at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford, Conn., said, "My concern about doing this on the Internet is that the patients might sign on to a trial without good knowledge about what they're getting into." Dr. Scott Kurtzman, chair of the University of Connecticut Health Center review board, is concerned that "shady Web sites" might advertise "quackery" as "legitimate trials." Some physicians also are concerned that online recruiting will not reach a diverse group of patients. Further, some express concern about patient privacy, as most sites will require patients to submit some personal information.
However, Web site executives say that they will adhere to "institutional review board guidelines" when referring patients to clinical trials. In addition, patients will be required to complete a "prescreening questionnaire" to determine eligibility for any trial, and clinicians will have the final say on who is eligible to take part in the studies. Ken Getz, president and CEO of CenterWatch, an online listing of trials, said the companies would never "misuse" information provided by patients. Getz added that no data would "be sold or disclosed without the patient's consent" (Condon, Hartford Courant, 12/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.