Recruitment into clinical trials — patient, recruit thyself

Gordon McGurk
Med J Aust 2015; 203 (2): 62. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.00682
Published online: 20 July 2015

Improving rates of recruitment into clinical trials, especially later-stage trials that require more participants, is a big challenge facing the Australian clinical trials sector. Successful clinical trials require not just sufficient funding, talent and clinical know-how, but also an adequate number of participants.

Already, Australia lags behind the United Kingdom in this regard. In June 2014, the UK's National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Network announced its three millionth participant in trials conducted over the previous 6 years ( In contrast, a benchmarking survey of Australian clinical research activity by the Pharmaceuticals Industry Council indicated that 53% of Phase III trials carried out in Australia in 2010 achieved less than 80% of their recruitment target.

So, how can we boost recruitment? One method is by capturing more participants at clinics by improving the recruitment process at that stage. Perhaps a more useful approach would be to give potential participants the ability to register for trials themselves. While such functionality already exists for specific conditions, a resource that provides information on all Australian clinical trials for all conditions would greatly benefit clinical research.

Through work conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Government Department of Industry and Science, there is now such a resource. The recently launched Australian Clinical Trials website ( allows potential participants to take matters into their own hands. With a few clicks of the mouse, individuals can find a trial in which they are interested and send a pro forma email to the contact person for the trial.

This is a big step in the right direction. Encouraging patients and clinicians to use this resource to its best advantage will be the next challenge. Meanwhile, the government will continue to work on other aspects of clinical trial recruitment to keep Australia competitive in the clinical trials space.

  • Gordon McGurk

  • National Health and Medical Research Council



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