Many Clinical Trials Go Unpublished. Here’s How Digital Marketing Can Help.

Clinical Trials Go Unpublished

Many clinical trials struggle with recruitment and publishing delays, but digital marketing initiatives can help sponsors and CROs meet important deadlines.

According to a recent study that appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a large number of clinical trials go unpublished for years – and some are never published at all. These delays deny patients and providers access to cutting-edge research and treatments, and threaten to undercut the credibility of the evidence collected. Further, clinical trials that fail to publish results within a year of completion may face heavy fines from the FDA.

The study found 67 long-unreported trials that had start dates after June 1, 2007, and completion dates before June 1, 2012. These trials involved a staggering 87,883 participants and went unreported for a median of nine years after completion. The study also determined that if a trial remains unpublished for four years or more, it is unlikely to ever be published or have its results made available on

In addition to involving significant investments of time and effort by both patients and researchers, these unpublished studies may well include important evidence that could enhance treatment processes for patients in need. It’s clear that timely reporting is a crucial part of drug and medical device development, yet many researchers struggle to complete trials and share their results within allotted timeframes.

But what is causing publishing delays, and how can sponsors and CROs overcome these obstacles? This article explores how digital marketing and technology can improve patient recruitment and retention in order to help trials meet their deadlines.

Why Do Trials Struggle to Publish?

Despite the clear imperative for bringing new treatments to market, many clinical trials face significant delays that can result in failure to publish within a reasonable interval. According to a study led by Dr. Till Bruckner, of the 40 universities that sponsor most trials in the United States, 25 have failed to meet their publishing deadlines.

These setbacks are due in part to problems with patient recruitment. With nearly 80% of clinical trials failing to enroll enough patients, recruitment challenges often end up derailing the entire medical research process. Compounding this problem, many studies experience patient dropout rates of up to 30%, creating a complex set of issues that can force trials to end prematurely.

How Digital Marketing Can Help

While many aspects of clinical trials cannot be modified to speed up the publishing process – it will always be essential to prioritize accurate analysis and careful follow-up, for instance – by streamlining patient recruitment and enrollment, sponsors and CROs can help ensure trials are well-positioned to meet their deadlines.

To that end, digital marketing is a powerful tool with which to boost patient enrollment. By investing in search and social media ads, clinical trials can recruit patients who are already looking for healthcare information online. These media channels enable sponsors and CROs to build diverse patient pools by targeting audiences based on age, location, and interests.

To improve both compliance and retention, trials should also focus on creating an engaging and convenient experience for patients. For instance, 91% of patients report that they want to know whether they will receive their results at the end of a trial, and patients who do receive their results are more likely to report a positive trial experience. In short, by focusing on patient-centric trial design and transparent communication, sponsors and CROs can help trials keep hold of the patients they so painstakingly recruit.

Finally, the experiences of both patients and researchers can be improved through the use of electronic health records (EHRs). EHRs allow trials to pre-register patients before research begins and minimize paperwork throughout the research process. These efforts not only make enrollment more convenient, but can also accelerate the publishing process.

Digital recruitment initiatives can help trials overcome delays and bring treatments to market more efficiently. Further, by publishing results as soon as possible, sponsors and CROs can avoid hefty FDA penalties. And ultimately, as evidence becomes available to the public more quickly, all clinical trials are likely to benefit from increased patient interest and engagement.

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