US-based biopharmaceutical services company Quintiles Transnational now has more than two million subscribers to iGuard, the personalised medication monitoring service it launched two years ago to support recruitment for clinical trials.

Quintiles says the web-based service “may be the largest single database of clinically profiled, opt-in patients available for clinical research purposes”. By contrast, it adds, the social media tool Twitter took two years to reach 1.3 million subscribers, according to estimates by TechCrunch. iGuard “matched that rate, even though participants voluntarily provided detailed information about their health and use of prescription medicines”.

Speaking to PharmaTimes recently, Dr John Hall, Quintiles’ vice president, global medical affairs, epidemiology and outcomes research, cited iGuard as one of the ways in which patients can help pharmaceutical companies and contract research organisations to meet the growing requirement for real-world clinical data following drug approval.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 73,000 patients registered with iGuard have helped Quintiles with over 92 different clinical studies, with many of them responding “within hours” to e-mailed research requests, the company notes.

It has also used iGuard volunteers to test 73 trial protocols during 2009 and “intends to make rapid protocol pre-testing a part of the standard process”. Another application is in assessing study-specific recruitment materials. Patients can draw from their own experience to suggest advertising improvements, ways to increase compliance with dosage instructions or more effective measures to keep study participants enrolled, Quintiles says.

“As part of the changing landscape in the biopharmaceutical industry, patients are taking control over decision-making about their treatments, including whether to participate in clinical trials, as they access a wealth of information on the Web,” comments John Ratliff, chief operating officer at Quintiles.

“We can help our customers identify potential risks before their studies begin, driving productivity and accelerating outcomes,” he adds. “We can rapidly reach out, directly, to patients before deploying a protocol and ask them if they’d like to volunteer to answer a number of questions up front. What percentage of patients with a disease would be eligible? How many of those patients would be interested and willing to participate?”

The answers to these and other questions, Ratliff says, “help our customers navigate risk inherent in the changing industry landscape we call the new health”.