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Can Your Clinical Trial Have a Voice on Social Media?

With the recent release of Twitter’s new paid promotion policy for pharma, I got to thinking about clinical research awareness online. Specifically, regarding the importance of fair and balanced advertising. Being in this industry, we tend to lose sight of the awareness level of the general public. There is a lot of noise online. Unless you know what you are looking for and what is credible, it can be hard to decipher what to listen to. With this in mind, trial sponsors should empower their sites to leverage the digital communications channels available to them to generate both disease and research awareness among patients and caregivers. For example, many research institutions today already have a strong online presence, including Sloan Kettering, Mayo Clinic, and Centre for Brain Health to name a few.

Developing patient-facing materials for clinical trials can be a lengthy process. Many sponsors have made the plunge into the digital world to generate awareness for their studies and the diseases they are aiming to improve treatment for. However, the digital space can be murky territory from a safety reporting standpoint. This only adds to the lengthy material development process. That said, don’t despair! Fair and balanced advertising can work hand in hand with the social media channels of research sites successfully.

What does this “partnership” look like?

Ultimately, all stakeholders in the research community are working towards better patient outcomes. Patient recruitment is a key factor to achieving this end goal. Should the target patient population be online, sponsors may want to consider supporting sites from a social media perspective. This is feasible in a way that is fair, balanced, and does not raise any red flags related to safety reporting. How so? Sponsors should consider providing sites with social media toolkits including IRB-approved, template posts with a clear call to action. This will eliminate the risk factor of unwanted negative comments specific to a sponsor or a therapy while generating increased awareness about research in the disease area (including the sponsor’s).

For those research institutions that do not have as strong of a social media presence, sponsors should consider offering some value-added training to demonstrate their commitment to sites’ overall performance. This also offers a great opportunity for best practice sharing and peer-to-peer learning. For those sites who are already doing this with success, sponsors should engage them as ambassadors to support with knowledge sharing in this area.

This is of course just one way to increase disease and research awareness online. Sponsors should also consider leveraging unbranded traditional materials including education on clinical research in general to support efforts to be fair and balanced while recruiting patients.

How will your trial have a voice amid the noisy online landscape?