Eighty percent of clinical trials are delayed at least one month because of unfulfilled enrollment, according to Cutting Edge Information. That means additional time and additional costs for trial sponsors.
Some have gotten creative in finding ways to let physicians know about clinical trials that might benefit their patients — through an app, for example, or with trial alerts delivered through EMRs — but more are starting to skip the middlemen and go straight to patients, offering free, searchable databases that match patients with appropriate clinical trials.
The formula for these recruiting sites is pretty standard: Aggregate sometimes-incomplete data from ClinicalTrials.gov, fill in missing data, develop a search algorithm and filter, and organize the data for certain audiences.
Earlier this year, for example, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research launched the Fox Trial Finder, a site that matches visitors with Parkinson’s trials based on various factors including age, location, symptoms and medications. It also facilitates a connection by letting volunteers anonymously communication with trial teams, and vice versa, making it easier for volunteers to act on opportunities to get involved.
But others have turned this kind of matchmaking into a profitable venture, finding creative new ways to reach patients who wouldn’t necessarily go looking for clinical trials.
Like the Michael J. Fox Foundation, many other not-for-profit groups run clinical trial matching sites, but many of them do it in partnership with the for-profit company EmergingMed. Perhaps a pioneer in the field of monetizing clinical trial matching, the phone- and Web-based service was founded in 2000 and makes money through partnerships with institutions, foundations and nonprofits including The Alzheimer’s Association, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, American Association for Cancer Research, Melanoma Research Foundation and the National Lung Cancer Partnership. It doesn’t accept investments, advertising or sponsorship from pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies.
Corengi, a startup that recently graduated from the Healthbox accelerator, is taking a different approach. It’s a niche website that connects type 2 diabetics with clinical trials, and it allows trial sponsors to pay for better positioning on the site, although founder Ryan Luce said it’s transparent about which listings are paid for.
Corengi reaches patients by embedding a widget on websites that diabetics are likely to visit such as Diabetes Daily and DiabetesNet.com. Luce said that finding new ways to get in front of patients is a continued priority as the company moves forward, looking for potential distribution partners, with plans to expand into oncology and a host of other medical conditions in the future.
The online community PatientsLikeMe also makes money from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, but it does so by selling users’ shared data. Last year, it launched a non-niche clinical trial matching tool for its more than 150,000 users. Today, the clinical trial search is one of the site’s most popular services, business development representative Arianne Graham wrote in a blog post.
As innovation around making clinical trials cheaper, more efficient and more accessible continues, it’s likely we’ll see more creative business models emerge in this market too. Will they prove effective in lessening the burden of recruiting patients? Will they take clinical trial searching mobile?