Dr. Tara Lauriat, a postdoctoral fellow in the Psychiatry Department at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston, and I recently had a discussion about clinical trials and information technology. Dr. Lauriat’s group currently runs sponsored and non-sponsored drug, neuroimaging and healthy volunteer studies investigating depression, bipolar disorder and how various psychotropic medications work. Her group is interested in understanding brain mechanisms and the underlying neurobiology by which psychotropic medications work. They are also interested in how brain function and neurotransmitters change under the influence of various medications that act on the central nervous system such as antidepressants. Dr. Lauriat is personally interested in neuroscience because it lies at the intersection between psychology and biology and doesn’t exclude the biological aspect of psychological conditions. Dr. Lauriat is also interested in the Internet and how it can help clinical trials reach their accrual goals. She is actually a featured CureTalk blogger. You can check out her CureTalk blogs here.
I am really excited to share this interview with all of you. Although busy managing and running many of the trials there, Dr. Lauriat had more than enough time to answer my questions. Here is our interview, hope you enjoy it:
Kim: Do you use the internet for recruiting and have you found that to be a successful strategy to letting potential patients know about your trials?
Tara: Actually the best way we have found, in terms of reaching out to people has been through Craigslist, which is interesting because people think of finding, sort of “sketchy” things on Craigslist. We actually get the vast majority of our subjects through Craigslist. It’s an inexpensive way to reach out to people. The disadvantage, however, is that you are reaching a primarily young, tech savvy sort of crowd, and it is hard to reach the older end of our age bracket. We have a study that goes up to age 60 and we are not really reaching people over age fifty as much.
Kim : Do you find that it’s better and more effective to reach people over 50 through traditional media such as print and radio?
Tara : It’s not that we don’t reach people through the internet; it’s just a question of whether we are getting a representative sample. We definitely get a lot more of the young people in their 20’s, particularly because there are so many colleges in Boston.
Kim: My theory is that in 10, 20, 30 years, the internet will be much more of an effective tool for clinical trials recruitment because both the young and old will be tech savvy at that point in time. I’d love to get your thoughts on that.
Tara: Absolutely. I don’t think our generation is going to stop using the internet because we can’t imagine life…well, we can imagine life without it because we are old enough to have known a time before it. But certainly people a little younger than us will not be able to. You know there is this joke from a child who asked “What did they do before computers, how did they check their email?”
Kim: (Laughing) Exactly. My friends just had a baby a couple of months ago and they already have pictures of her on their mac, plunking away on the keyboard. So indeed, they are born into it and they will not know what it was like not to have a computer.
Kim: Let me ask, what is your take on blogs? I know you have written a couple of blogs for CureTalk and I was just wondering if you’d like to comment on blogging in general and how that relates to changing world of clinical research.
Tara: I guess with the blog, it is an open format so you can really address the issues that you experience in your day to day life working in clinical trials. You can address the specific issues that need to be elucidated for the public as opposed to say a peer reviewed publication where everything follows a strict format. With blogs you can really express the things you feel people need to know based on your own experience.
Kim: And do you read other people’s blogs in the research field? Do you go onto other sites and learn about things through blogs?
Tara: I haven’t used blogs as much, I tend to focus more on websites through universities and so forth finding out information about issues like their IRB’s policies. These website are more for people in clinical trials and have been developed through academia as opposed to individual blogs, but now that I am realizing the value of blogs I will probably pursue that more.
Kim: I think blogs are beginning catch fire but they are still relatively new. Academic websites generally don’t yet have blogs but there are a couple of young doctors who have started their own blogs that are getting increasing attention but still it is not a widely accepted means of communication as opposed to PubMed or the whole journal world. Like recruitment via the internet, blogging is a rapidly increasing means of communication and sharing of ideas not only between doctors but between patients as well. What we at TrialX are hoping to become is a platform where patients can share stories with the research professionals who will also be talking to the doctors and we will be able to see much more open clinical community in terms of breakthroughs and what’s hot and what’s not. Right now there is not a dedicated clinical trials blog out there, actually, we are hoping to become that!
Tara: That’s exciting!
Kim: Absolutely. I wanted to see if you wanted to plug any of the trials you are currently conducting to let our readers in the Boston area know about your trial.
Tara: Well, one trial that we are very eager to find subjects for is for people with bipolar depression that involves taking a study medication. We are also interested in how this medication affects the brain in so there are MRI scans of the brain and cognitive testing to assess major changes in attention and memory. This is a very exciting study that we are getting up and running. We are putting together a Facebook campaign together for it and we are very hopeful that we will be able to reach people. We also have an ad up in the subway right now here in Boston which is actually really expensive.
Kim :They are so expensive it’s crazy, I looked into ad pricing here for subway adds and it is incredible how expensive they are.
How long is the ad going to run for in the subway?
Tara: Four weeks, it started on November 15th.
Kim: Have you gotten any responses for it, do you know?
Tara: A few people called me and said they saw the ad on the train. I actually reposted this one on Craigslist over the weekend maybe on Friday or Saturday and I’ve gotten a better response from that. It has been a difficult study to recruit for. When you recruit from the community, you get people who think they have bipolar disorder and then have to determine if they are actually what you are looking for.
Kim: Right, right I imagine you require a diagnosis in order to participate?
Tara: Everyone has an interview with the study physician, and we use the SCID (Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV), which is an interview to determine if someone meets diagnostic criteria for depression or bipolar disorder. It also assesses whether someone meets criteria for something like post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder that would exclude them.
Kim: It is sometimes difficult to find qualified pts.
Tara: Well, you know the Metro, the free newspaper?
Kim: Yes, we’ve got that here.
Tara: We put an ad for one study that was a single visit, as opposed to an ongoing trial, and the phone rang nonstop for 24 hours straight. Unfortunately, many were people just looking for money.
Kim: What was the percentage from that ad that you were able to enroll onto the trial?
Tara: I didn’t field the calls so I am not exactly sure what the percentage was but I know that the study doctor was concerned with the quality of people that we brought in at that time.
Kim : And I bet you find that Craigslist is not only much more efficient not only in terms of costs and timing, but probably delivers better quality patients.
Tara :Yea we get pretty good people from Craigslist
And we’ve come full circle back to Craigslist, which concluded our interview.
I hope you found this informative and insightful in terms of some tips for clinical trials recruitment.
I’d love to hear any comments you have and I look forward to CureTalking with you again.
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- Shout-Out to the Awesome CureTalk Bloggers! Thanks for Spreading Awareness about Clinical Trials
- Interview with James Greenwald, President of Medex Healthcare Research Inc.
- Interview with Ann Becker, Director of Women’s Health Research (WHRAZ), Arizona
- Interview with Cyndi Buchanan of Medex Healthcare Research on Patient Education