In the past, patients with heart failure often required the implantation of a ventricular assist device (VAD) as a bridge to transplant. With advances in technology, however, VADs had become recognized as an alternative therapy by themselves.
Improved devices, such as Thoratec's Heartmate II, must pass clinical trials to get FDA approval, so the company enlisted FischerHealth to help gather trial participants.
"Convincing patients to participate in a clinical trial involving surgery remains a challenge, regardless of how life-saving the device may be," says Gretchen Marchesani, Thoratec senior director of marketing. FischerHealth placed the bulk of the campaign at the local level, utilizing the 49 Heartmate II transplant centers to inform cardiologists and their communities of VADs as an option. This put hospitals and surgeons front and center, allowing centers to seek trial candidates at a personal level while building awareness of VADs in the national medical community.
Each facility was given a toolkit containing template releases and fact sheets, and was encouraged to conduct local outreach surrounding the national stories that FischerHealth was placing. "For the time the trial ran, there was an ongoing storyline on Grey's Anatomy, which allowed for hospitals to continually go to the media in their markets about this as an alternative therapy," says Roger Fischer, CEO of FischerHealth. "It made it more than a one-time story."
Coverage garnered more than 15.8 million national and local impressions, but the real payoff came when the clinical trial enrolled nine times faster than trials conducted by Heartmate II competitors.
Thoratec recently filed the first two modules of its Pre-Market Approval application with the FDA and is continuing clinical trials for additional indications.
PR team: Thoratec Corporation (Pleasanton, CA) and FischerHealth (Los Angeles)
Campaign: Helping Thoratec Pump Up Heartmate II Clinical Trial Enrollment
Duration: January 2005 to March 2006
Budget: About $150,000