People Fearful of Participating in Vital Clinical Research

Fear is a major factor behind people’s reluctance to take part in clinical research, such as trials to test new medicines and treatments, a global review has found.

The review, led by researchers at the University of York and Hull York Medical School, found that fear about testing new treatments and possible side effects was the most common reason given by patients for not wanting to participate. The researchers looked at the results of more than 400 studies from around the world on the reasons behind poor recruitment trends for health and medical studies.

Concerns about privacy and confidentiality have also increased over the past decade, the study suggests.

Among black and minority ethnic patients, distrust in research and medical professionals was also a common reason given for not wanting to participate, perhaps a legacy of major historical violations of ethical standards in medical experiments involving these populations.

The authors of the study are calling for the development of new schemes to increase participation in research by addressing patient anxieties and motivations.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Peter Knapp, from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York and the Hull York Medical School, said: “Clinical trials are an essential part of developing new medicines and improving healthcare, but recruiting patients to take part is one of the biggest challenges researchers face. Our review highlights how people are held back from taking part in research by their fears surrounding losing control of the treatments they receive and worries about possible side effects.”

On the other hand, the study found that trust in doctors and clinical staff, a desire to help others, and the potential for improvements in their own health were key factors that motivated patients to get on board with research. So, “people’s sense of altruism is another possibility that could be explored as a way of appealing to [them],” Knapp said.

Knapp added: “Interestingly, we found quite a few gaps between the main reasons people gave for their reluctance to take part and the interventions currently in place in healthcare systems like the [National Health Service in the United Kingdom] to try to remove barriers to participation. There is a need for more research to identify effective recruitment strategies that draw on psychological theory and the facilitators and barriers identified in this overview.”

Edited by Gary Cramer