Seeding trial

Seeding trial

A seeding trial or marketing trial is a form of marketing, conducted in the name of research, designed to target product sampling towards selected consumers. In medicine, seeding trials are clinical trials or research studies where the primary objective is to introduce the concept of a particular medical intervention—such as a pharmaceutical drug or medical device—to physicians, rather than to test a scientific hypothesis. In software, seeding trials are commonly termed beta-testing.

To create loyalty and advocacy towards a brand, seeding trials take advantage of opinion leadership to enhance sales, capitalizing on the Hawthorne Effect.cite book |author=Paul Marsden; Justin Kirby |title=Connected marketing: the viral, buzz and word of mouth revolution |publisher=Butterworth-Heinemann |location=Oxford |year=2006 |pages= |isbn=0-7506-6634-X |oclc= |doi= |url= |accessdate=] In a seeding trial, the brand provides potential opinion leaders with the product for free, aiming to gain valuable pre-market feedback and also to build support among the testers, creating influential word-of-mouth advocates for the product. By involving the opinion leaders as testers, effectively inviting them to be an extension of the marketing department, companies can create "a powerful sense of ownership among the clients, customers or consumers that count" by offering engaging the testers in a research dialogue.

In industry

An early example of a seeding trial was during the development of Post-it notes, produced by 3M. In 1977, secretaries to senior management staff throughout the United States were sent packs of Post-its and invited to suggest possible uses for them. They soon found them to be extremely useful and became "brand champions" for the product, an early example of viral web |url= |title=Post-It Note Origin |format= |work= |accessdate=2008-08-21]

Companies that have used seeding trials include Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, Hasbro, Google, Unilever, Pepsi, Coke, Ford, Dreamworks SKG, EMI, Sony, and Siemens.

In medicine

Seeding trials to promote a medical intervention were described as "trials of approved drugs appear to serve little or no scientific purpose" and "thinly veiled attempts to entice doctors to prescribe a new drug being marketed by the company" in a special article in the "New England Journal of Medicine". The article, whose authors included FDA commissioner David Aaron Kessler, also described a number of characteristics common to seeding trials:cite journal |author=Kessler DA, Rose JL, Temple RJ, Schapiro R, Griffin JP |title=Therapeutic-class wars--drug promotion in a competitive marketplace |journal=N. Engl. J. Med. |volume=331 |issue=20 |pages=1350–3 |year=1994 |month=November |pmid=7935706 |doi= |url= |accessdate=2008-08-21]
* The trial is of an intervention with many competitors
* Use of a trial design unlikely to achieve its stated scientific aims (e.g., un-blinded, no control group, no placebo)
* Recruitment of physicians as trial investigators because they commonly prescribe similar medical interventions rather than for their scientific merit
* Disproportionately high payments to trial investigators for relatively little work
* Sponsorship is from a company's sales or marketing budget rather than from research and development
* Little requirement for valid data collection

In a seeding trial, doctors and their patients are given free access to a drug and exclusive information and services to use the drug effectively. Additionally, participating physicians are often given financial remuneration and a chance to be a co-author on a resulting scientific publication. By triggering the Hawthorne effect, physicians become "opinion-leading word-of-mouth advocates". This practice has been shown to be effective.cite journal |author=Andersen M, Kragstrup J, Søndergaard J |title=How conducting a clinical trial affects physicians' guideline adherence and drug preferences |journal=JAMA |volume=295 |issue=23 |pages=2759–64 |year=2006 |month=June |pmid=16788131 |doi=10.1001/jama.295.23.2759 |url=]

Documents released during a court case indicate that the ADVANTAGE trial of Vioxx conducted by Merck may have been a seeding trial, with the intention being to introduce the drug to physicians rather than test its efficacy."New York Times": cite web |url= |title=Evidence in Vioxx Suits Shows Intervention by Merck Officials |format= |work= |accessdate=2008-08-21] cite journal |author=Hill KP, Ross JS, Egilman DS, Krumholz HM |title=The ADVANTAGE seeding trial: a review of internal documents |journal=Ann. Intern. Med. |volume=149 |issue=4 |pages=251–8 |year=2008 |month=August |pmid=18711155 |doi= |url= |accessdate=2008-08-21] "New Scientist": cite web |url= |title=Merck catches more flak over dangerous drug |format= |work= |accessdate=2008-08-21] Such practices are considered unethicalcite journal |author=Katz KA |title=Time to nip "seeding trials" in the bud |journal=Arch Dermatol |volume=144 |issue=3 |pages=403–4 |year=2008 |month=March |pmid=18347299 |doi=10.1001/archderm.144.3.403 |url= |accessdate=2008-08-21] and it appears the company knew about the potential criticism they would face; an internal email suggested: "It may be a seeding study, but let's not call it that in our internal documents". The 2003 study was originally published in the "Annals of Internal Medicine"cite journal |author=Lisse JR, Perlman M, Johansson G, "et al" |title=Gastrointestinal tolerability and effectiveness of rofecoxib versus naproxen in the treatment of osteoarthritis: a randomized, controlled trial |journal=Ann. Intern. Med. |volume=139 |issue=7 |pages=539–46 |year=2003 |month=October |pmid=14530224 |doi= |url= |accessdate=2008-08-21] but was strongly criticized for its deception by the journal's editors in a 2008 editorial, calling for greater responsibility in academia to end the practice of "marketing in the guise of science".cite journal |author=Sox HC, Rennie D |title=Seeding trials: just say "no" |journal=Ann. Intern. Med. |volume=149 |issue=4 |pages=279–80 |year=2008 |month=August |pmid=18711161 |doi= |url= |accessdate=2008-08-21]


Further reading

*cite journal |author=Stephens MD |title=Marketing aspects of company-sponsored postmarketing surveillance studies |journal=Drug Saf |volume=8 |issue=1 |pages=1–8 |year=1993 |month=January |pmid=8471183 |doi= |url= |accessdate=2008-08-21

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