Experts offer insights to summarize company-sponsored medical research for better understanding by patients and other audiences

New study features stakeholder perspectives to inform best practices for developing easy-to-understand summaries of pharmaceutical company-sponsored medical research publications

A new paper presents perspectives from a diverse group of 29 expert stakeholders. These perspectives serve as a platform for much-needed recommendations and best practices on communicating pharmaceutical company-sponsored medical research publications to patients, caregivers, and other audiences.

Many people struggle to understand medical research publications because the language is too complex. Authors and publishers are striving to find ways to change this – to summarize the science in a way that can be understood by all. This could help support collaborative decision making; it would democratize medical knowledge (instead of being accessible to specialists only); and it embraces equity, diversity, and inclusion principles.

One solution is to include plain language summaries (or “PLS”) alongside medical publications. There is broad enthusiasm to adopt PLS with medical publications, but there are still many questions to address to drive their uptake.

The new paper in Current Medical Research & Opinion presents findings from an evidence-based study that was endorsed and sponsored by the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP). It highlights key challenges and opportunities to inform best practice for PLS. The group gathered perspectives on PLS from a diverse group of 29 stakeholders involved in developing, publishing, reading or funding PLS – ranging from pharmaceutical industry and supporting agencies to patients, healthcare professionals, and the media.

10 themes were identified from the discussions – each one presenting a possible action that could accelerate PLS uptake. These included:

  • Developing industry-wide PLS guidelines would help define and maintain quality
  • Advocating for target audiences interested in reading about new medical advances to drive the need for PLS
  • Developing an effective and consistent way to discover and search for PLS.

Robert Matheis, co-author of the article, and President and CEO of ISMPP, shared that “the study reveals great insights into the real and perceived barriers relating to the uptake of PLS and what could be done to tackle them”.

The study, run by Envision Pharma Group and McCann Health Medical Communications, used a robust methodology and provides a strong evidence base for informing the 4th iteration of the Good Publication Practice guidelines that are currently in development. It adds to the growing knowledge about PLS for medical publications and follows last month’s recommendations from Open Pharma for minimum PLS standards, also published in Current Medical Research & Opinion.