Increasing Women’s Participation in Clinical Trials

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women. Yet the number of women who take part in clinical trials that address treatment of cardiovascular disease is markedly lower than the number of men included in these trials. One recent study found that in trials of 36 cardiovascular medications, only 34% of participants overall were women.

This is just one disease state—participation among women continues to lag behind men in a number of types of trials. So how can study sponsors get more women into clinical trials? The following strategies are a good start.

Target recruitment through primary care and women’s health providers
Primary care and women’s health providers have the potential to be a valuable source for recommending clinical trials to women. Patients trust these providers and value their input. To tap this source, reach out to and educate these providers about available trials, which patients would be appropriate candidates, and the patient benefits of trial participation. When healthcare providers have a deeper understanding of what’s involved in a clinical trial and how it might benefit patients, they are more comfortable discussing trial participation with their patients.

Reach out to patients through community organizations
Research the organizations and patient advocacy groups that women turn to for information about health issues, and then connect with these organizations through event sponsorships and organization membership. Not only will it help you gain a better understanding of women’s needs and concerns, it can open opportunities to educate women about available trials and direct them into the candidate pipeline.

Develop targeted recruitment materials
Create trial recruitment materials using what you’ve learned about patients through community and patient advocacy groups and other techniques such as social media listening. Materials should clearly offer a potential solution to the problem patients face. It’s also important to choose the right channels to advertise the trial. Pinpoint the most appropriate channels by studying patients’ media consumption habits. Some factors that affect which channels patients prefer include age, education, geographic location, income, and ethnicity.

Make participation in the trial easier
Work and caretaker roles can limit a woman’s ability to participate in clinical trials. Reducing the burden of taking part in a trial can make it more accessible to women. If possible, limit the number of site visits and procedures. Streamline site visits to ensure participants don’t feel they’re wasting time in the waiting room. Offer evening and weekend appointments, and if possible, onsite child care. Provide transportation to the trial site, reimbursement for transportation, and valet parking to minimize time and frustration.