Social media’s pharma marketing behavior got some regulatory attention this week, but the guardrails the FDA has put in place address only one aspect of pharma’s social media interest. A just-wrapped study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development assessed how clinical researchers are using the chatty platforms.

Despite concerns, like patient privacy, that have dogged pharma marketing efforts, Tufts researchers found that most of the polled companies have been using social media for clinical research over the past four years. Researchers also noted 20% of the polled biotechs and pharmaceutical companies directly contacted patients through social media, while others used third parties or what Tufts called passive outreach — banner ads on social media sites — to get patient attention.

The majority of the polled groups —  which included contract research organizations — recruited patients for clinical trials using Facebook, patient communities, YouTube and Twitter, and reported that around 11% of clinical trials included a social media recruitment component.

This interaction is also one-sided. Not one of the surveyed groups ask patients for input on trial design or feedback in general, even though the majority told Tufts they think “input from social media communities would greatly improve the feedback they receive on program planning and protocol design feasibility.”

A companion survey showed that patients would be more than happy to share. Tufts found that 24 out of 27 polled patients think clinical research sponsors should use social media to ask patients about case report forms, and 22 of 27 said they should be asked for input about protocols and scheduling.