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Pfizer vows to learn from virtual trial failure

Published on 22/06/12 at 11:12am
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Pfizer's animated YouTube video outlined the trial's basics to patients

Several months after Pfizer failed to recruit patients to its first ever virtual trial, the firm said it was looking to learn from the setback.

The pilot REMOTE trial was looking to recruit 600 patients suffering from overactive bladder disorder, and was asking them to use electronic diaries to record their experiences.

It was designed so that patients could avoid having to travel to clinics during the trial. 

It was a first for pharma - as reported by InPharm last year - but the hype succumbed to practical difficulties when no one signed up for the trial.

Writing on Pfizer’s ‘Think Science Now’ blog, Craig Lipset, head of clinical innovation at Pfizer, said: “This pilot was testing a series of modules needed to enable patients to participate in a […] clinical trial entirely from home. 

“Patient recruitment was one of many modules being tested, and the other modules worked very well.  In the near-term we are focused on applying these successful modules to studies being planned and executed at Pfizer today.” 

He added that the firm would not shy away from using social media and online tools to recruit patients, despite the problems it has had, and would re-launch REMOTE in 2013. 

Lipset said: “I also want to clarify that this project does not represent a failure for, or withdrawal from the use of the internet or social media for patient recruitment. 

“We routinely use the internet as a channel for recruitment in our studies and will continue to do so wherever it is appropriate. Recruitment strategies tend to be very study-specific, and we will be working to refine such strategies specific to a virtual trial approach.”


But a major problem with this trial, given the condition it targets, is that many patients affected by overactive bladder disorder are elderly, and may not use the internet as regularly as younger patients. 

This could have been one reason as to why the REMOTE pilot failed to recruit and will prove to be a systemic problem for all trials targeting diseases that afflict the elderly.

Ben Adams is the reporter for Pharmafocus and and author of the DigiBlog site. He can be contacted via: email or Twitter.

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