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Rapid response to:

Information In Practice

Conducting clinical trials over the internet: feasibility study

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7413.484 (Published 28 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:484

Rapid Response:

Re: Spam

We agree with the sentiments expressed by Jacobs about spam. Spam is
mass unsolicited e-mail, usually advertisements, sent to e-mail addresses
collected through covert means with the receiver bearing the brunt of the
costs (1).

The commercial service we used to advertise our trial provides daily
Ezines, which are electronic magazines that include articles and special
offers. Similar to hard copy magazines, Ezines require subscriptions.
The advertisement we used to recruit participants for the trial was sent
to people who actively subscribed to this service, and therefore, provided
permission to receive the e-mail. As a test, one of us, KK, subscribed to
the service for several months before we placed the advertisement. It is
notable that we did not get a single complaint about our advertisement
strategy. Furthermore, several hundred people applied to join our trial
as a direct result of this advertisement.

A recent report by Gartner, Inc. indicated that by next year, spam
will account for up to 60% of e-mail traffic (2), making it a problem for
most people with access to an e-mail account, including the authors.
Researchers must ensure that use of the Internet to conduct clinical
trials in the future does not perpetuate the problem of spam, as we are
certain that our clinical trial did not.

1. http://spam.abuse.net/faq/

2. http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/business/6892798.htm

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

03 October 2003
Timothy E. McAlindon
Chief, Division of Rheumatology
Margaret Formica, Karim Kabbara, Michael LaValley, Melissa Lehmer
Tufts-New England Medical Center, 750 Washington St., Box 406, Boston, MA 02111