Lost To Followup Explained

Lost to followup is a term used commonly in research literature when a patient is in a study but can no longer be found to determine its current status.

Sometimes private practitioners are asked to participate in clinical trials with their clients' permission.
Sometimes private practitioners are asked to participate in clinical trials with their clients’ permission.

For example, let’s say Company A comes out with Medication 16, a new and improved version of Medications 1-15. In therapeutic trials 100 dogs are studied, with 50 of them taking a placebo and 50 of them taking the new medicine. All are client-owned animals, as opposed to research animals owned by the pharmaceutical company.

Perhaps the study is five years long and by the end of the study some of the dogs have died, but some pet owners simply cannot be contacted. Those, we say, are lost to followup. Those, too, may have passed away, but the owners failed to contact the researchers (as required by their contractual agreement). Some may have moved away and simply forgotten to let the company know.

If you are asked to have your pet participate in a study, whether therapeutic or observational, please take the responsibility very seriously. Often millions upon millions of dollars go into research studies and their very validity may be challenged if too many participants are lost to followup.

There is another kind of “lost to followup,” too. Often we answer questions for www.MyPetsDoctor.com readers, then we don’t hear back from the reader to find out how the pet’s case ultimately turned out. We care about our readers and our readers’ pets, and are always interested to know the outcome of cases.

See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.

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