Building Clinical Trial Awareness for Patients: Why Not Try the Pharmacist? - Pharmaceutical Executive


Building Clinical Trial Awareness for Patients: Why Not Try the Pharmacist?

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmacists—you mean educators?

Since pharmacists are highly trusted and have plentiful opportunities for patient interactions, CISCRP conducted research to examine whether they might be an effective channel to educate the public about clinical research. Our first study, in 2010, focused on potential public receptivity to receiving information on clinical research from pharmacists. Its notable findings included:

Nearly 80 percent of the 2,650 respondents would like their pharmacists to tell them about clinical trials, yet only 1 percent reported receiving this information from their pharmacists.

While all demographic groups were open to receiving pharmacy-directed clinical research and educational materials, respondents who had closer relationships with their pharmacist were the most receptive.

Respondents were most interested in information about how to find clinical trials, whether they are safe, and how to learn more about them.

Survey participants were asked: Which of these are possible benefits or risks of participating in clinical trails?
Our follow-up study in 2012 evaluated the impact of in-pharmacy education on patient's knowledge, interest, and willingness to participate in clinical trials. CISCRP collaborated with McKesson to engage and train pharmacists at 32 locations within its national network of independent community pharmacies. CISCRP provided each pharmacy with educational materials to display and/or distribute for a period of two to three months. Pre- and post-surveys among 487 patients were conducted to gather baseline measures and to assess the impact of educational materials and in-pharmacy discussions (see table).

What the data says

The results indicated that outreach through the pharmacy educational channel markedly improved patients' knowledge of and interest in participating in clinical trials. Here a few highlights:

Nearly all baseline measures of awareness and comprehension increased by 10 to 20 percentage points including patient confidence in their knowledge about clinical research and in their understanding of the benefits and risks of participation.

Six out of 10 respondents in the post-test also reported that they would be more likely—"very" and "somewhat"—to recommend clinical trial participation to a friend or family member.

Although the study objective was to measure receptivity and changes in comprehension, not behavioral changes, we were surprised to find that nearly six of the post-survey respondents (4 percent of the total) enrolled in clinical studies during the limited timeframe of the study.

The study also corroborated other research regarding pharmacists' accessibility and trustworthiness. More than 30 percent of patients reported visiting their pharmacies six or more times during the period when the educational materials were on display. And 15 percent indicated that they had spoken to the pharmacist or pharmacy staff about clinical trials. This has a carry-on effect, with this increased traffic being beneficial to the pharmacy bottom line.

Implications—closing the sale

This research suggests that pharmacies represent a compelling new patient outreach and education opportunity. Moreover, given their accessibility and closeness to patients, pharmacists may play a valuable role in disseminating information supporting sponsor and CRO patient recruitment strategies. Specifically, pharmacists may add value to targeting prospective study volunteers by vetting and validating pre-qualified candidates based on the pharmacists personal knowledge of patients and their healthcare options. It is a cost effective form of anticipatory screening.

Community pharmacists also provide a potential channel for difficult-to-reach individuals in remote areas, a largely untapped target demographic. These potential trial participants generally visit their pharmacies much more often than their city and suburban counterparts, which affords study sponsors more opportunities for education and engagement. Many of the pharmacists in our second study were located in relatively remote areas. One commented that: "This was a new experience for patients living in our small town. Usually only large cities or large hospitals have access to this kind of information." This represents a trend in rural areas, where pharmacists are essentially surrogates for the scarce physician practice.

The clinical research enterprise has a critical and growing need to engage the public and patients in discourse as to the nature, safety, and importance of clinical research in advancing medical knowledge about disease and how to treat it. Hence, as our study results demonstrate, pharmacists are an important new channel for increasing clinical research literacy among patient communities and for raising patient awareness about opportunities to participate in clinical trials. It is another reason why trial recruitment and management has literally become everyone's business if new drugs are to be the result.

Ken Getz is founder and Chairman of the Center for the Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation, and Director, Sponsored Research, for the Tufts University Center for the Study of Drug Development in Boston. He can be reached at


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