Promising new clinical trial data offers fresh hope for the families of Alzheimer’s patients. A new medication seems to be slowing the disease’s progress, limiting the cognitive decline that characterizes this “long goodbye.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful for patients suffering other diseases to have equally encouraging prospects?
But many do not.
Part of the problem lies with clinical trials. For a new medication to receive FDA approval, it must undergo comprehensive testing on actual patients. Yet finding participants for these trials can be slow, exhausting and ultimately unsuccessful.
Research from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development found that 11 percent of trial sites fail to enroll even a single patient. Thirty-seven percent under-enroll, and those who do meet their enrollment targets typically have to double their original timeline.
Across disease states, health care professionals and advocates agree that stagnated, under-enrolled clinical trials cannot continue. Many of us have come together through The Coalition for Clinical Trials Awareness to propose an intriguing solution: a federally-sponsored public awareness campaign on the value of clinical trials.
The concept is not a novel one. You may recall the federal campaign of the 1990s that encouraged Americans to consider organ donation. More recently, the Department of Homeland Security initiated “If You See Something, Say Something™” to raise public awareness on responding to security threats.
Now we need to put that model to work once again, this time for the benefit of patients who suffer unnecessarily because stalled clinical trials delay vital treatments. We envision a campaign that interweaves social media networks, television, radio, internet and print media to answer the public’s most basic questions. What is a clinical trial? Should I participate? Why does it matter?
And it does matter.
Robust clinical trials can mean more data, shorter timelines for getting new medications to market, and fewer patients waiting unnecessarily for breakthrough medicines. Less burdened by health complications, these patients can better care for their families. They can bring new energy to their workplaces; newfound dedication to their neighborhoods and churches. Improved clinical trials enrollment won’t aid just patients; they will bolster our society as a whole.
But first, awareness.
Visit CCTAwareness.org to learn more about the Coalition for Clinical Trials Awareness.
Catherine Rice is executive director of the International Essential Tremor Foundation and a member of the Coalition for Clinical Trials Awareness Steering Committee.
Andrew Spiegel is executive director of the Global Colon Cancer Association and a member of the Coalition for Clinical Trials Awareness Steering Committee.