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No one involved in clinical research is ever quite satisfied with the status quo.
During the quarter-century since my introduction to pharmaceutical research, I have been repeatedly reminded that the industry doesn't stand still. Working with the authors on Applied Clinical Trials' second Trends in Subject Recruitment insert showed it once again. During my "retirement," I continue to work with clinical research professionals. Not one of them has ever suggested that the industry has everything figured out. No one has ever told me, "Now, at last, we can just cruise along without innovating."
Recruitment specialists are no exception. They look at the previous year's successes and see springboards to new approaches. They know that a clinical trial delay is extremely costly. Speedy enrollment of the specified number of subjects required by a protocol's inclusion criteria is critical. Retaining those subjects throughout the study can make the difference between losing out to a competitor and launching a profitable new product.
Industry lore has long included wry jokes about the disconnect between an investigator site's optimistic projections and that site's eventual enrollment. But you never hear anyone chuckle about the problems involved in rescue operations.
Each recruitment consultant has a different way of tackling the issue. Despite subtle—and not so subtle—differences in approach, they all seem to see the same key to success: accurately predicting site performance. Although that key is often elusive, specialists glimpse it often enough to feel hopeful. They continue to refine their search methods. This year's Trends in Subject Recruitment contains reports of improvements on last year's successes. Everyone continues to strive for better methods, more accurate predictions, better data analyses.
It's no wonder, then, that I remain fascinated by the whole clinical research enterprise. When the editor of sister publication Pharmaceutical Executive interviewed me for the associate editor position, I warned her, "I have about a three-year attention span." I had been a corporate editor for Colonial Williamsburg, a radio and television advertising copywriter, a radio news reporter, a university administrative assistant, a psychology research clinic administrator. Each held my interest for two to five years. Some of those positions were absolutely captivating—for three or four years.
Then along came pharmaceutical clinical trials. Never once during nearly 10 years with Applied Clinical Trials did I think, "This is getting repetitive and dull, time to move on." Never once during more than six years as a freelancer have I seen any sign that clinical research professionals are ready to rest on their laurels.
The articles that follow note the need for the general population to be made more aware of clinical trials. That seems logical. Those of us who are intimately involved hear so much about it that it can be easy to assume that the rest of the populace hears it too. So strategic marketing is an important component, marketing informed by the analysis of many kinds of data from a variety of sources.
This insert is packed with innovative ideas about effective subject recruitment. I can hardly wait to see what the next step of innovations will spring from this year's accomplishments.
Jane Ganter, a freelance editor and writing coach, retired as Editor Emeritus of Applied Clinical Trials in September 2003, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.