Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Princes and Paupers - Sponsors and patient recruitment vendors trade places

Today at Partnerships, we have a post from guest blogger Paul Ivsin VP, Consulting Director at CAHG Clinical Trials. He specializes in study enrollment strategies and patient engagement. He writes on clinical trial issues at companion blogs Placebo Lead-In and Placebo Control.

"Aren't you tired of not getting the information you need from your recruitment vendor?"

That was the immediate, unhesitating answer I got from Joe Kim at Shire when I asked him what he would say to clinical operations personnel who were considering whether to come to his recruitment vendor relationship workshop.

One day, when we grow up to be sponsors...
As a recruitment vendor myself, it was a hard thing to hear. Even though I've written before about the shortcomings of the clinical trial enrollment enterprise, it's still quite painful when those same thoughts come from a study sponsor.

So I signed up.

Sponsors have all the money,
agencies have all the fun, right?
The workshop is Trading Places Role Reversal Workshop: A Collaborative Approach to Working with Patient Recruitment Partners, and will take place Monday March 31 at the Partnerships in Clinical Trials conference. It is intended to put sponsors and recruitment vendors squarely in each other’s shoes for the afternoon.

“In each other’s shoes” means that yes, there will be role-playing exercises. I’m not a huge fan of role-playing exercises ... who is? (We used to run role-playing exercises during our Patient Recruitment Workshops at IMs. We stopped doing them though, because, well, no one likes doing role-playing exercises.) But Joe and his fellow workshop leaders say it will be fun and enlightening, so I’ll put aside my baggage and trust that it will all work out well.

Trading places: can this vendor be
groomed for pharma-side success?
Joe insisted that the fact that the workshop is being run by 3 sponsors and 0 vendors does not mean the workshop will be biased towards a sponsor perspective. The leaders - Joe, along with Elizabeth Mascherino from Shire and Merck's Kelly McKee, all of whom have had extensive experience working with a variety of recruitment vendors - are only there to facilitate the session, and will not be presenting any particular point of view. “There are plenty of things wrong” with how these programs are managed on the sponsor side, he acknowledged.

But just to be sure, I hereby present some of my personal “What Exactly Were You Thinking?” sponsor highlights:

  • ◊ A study manager who did not want to pay for an advertising campaign still hired us to communicate recruitment “opportunities” to the sites. The low point came when he asked us to talk to a site about participating in an awareness walk in a small city over 100 miles away. Shockingly, the site wasn't big on the idea.
  • ◊ Right in the middle of a highly successful ad campaign (TV and online), senior managers at a sponsor pharma company brought in another vendor to run a direct mail blitz. The study still finished ahead of schedule, but the mail produced no enrollments – I guess it’s good for vendors to have friends in high places.
  • ◊ An RFI for patient recruitment services included a section on certifications which asked whether we were certified Kosher (will we be preparing food for you?) and in “Mil Spec” (That’s a collection of standards, not a single certification. And it’s for military operations.)
  • ◊ One sponsor consistently tried to save money be holding its Investigator Meetings at the old Hyatt on the grounds of DFW airport. “Our sites love it because it’s so easy to get to,” they insisted to me. (Hint: no investigator or coordinator in the history of the known universe has been happy to spend an entire weekend at DFW.)
What are some of the odder behaviors you've encountered in patient recruitment – from either sponsors or vendors? Feel free to share here, or just bring your stories to the workshop. It promises to be an enlightening time, I think.

Partnerships in Clinical Trials is taking place this Sunday, March 30-Wednesday, April 2 in Las Vegas. It's not too late to sign up!  As a reader of this blog, when you register to join us and mention code XP1900BLOG, you'll save $100 off the current rate! Have any questions? Feel free to reach out to Jennifer Pereira.

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