There have been significant improvements over the last eight years in public perceptions of clinical-trial safety as well as trust in the motives of clinical research professionals, a new international study has found.

In the online survey conducted between January and March 2013 by US-based non-profit the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) among a global community of health-information seekers and research participants, only 28% of respondents said they did not trust research sponsors to inform the public quickly about safety concerns in clinical trials.

This figure compared with 45% of respondents in a Harris Interactive poll run in 2005. In that survey, moreover, 46% of respondents believed volunteers were gambling with their health by taking part in a clinical trial. In the latest CISCRP survey, only 23% of current respondents agreed with this statement

One of the largest

With nearly 6,000 completed surveys, the 2013 Perceptions & Insights Study is “one of the largest international clinical research surveys ever conducted”, the Center said.

The study assessed changes in public perceptions of, and attitudes to, clinical research and gathered insights into study-participation experiences and behaviours, such as why people drop out of trials prematurely. 

Other key findings included:

  • The internet surpassed newspapers, radio and television as the primary source of information on clinical research, although the majority (60%) of study volunteers are not using social media to learn about clinical trials.                                                                           
  • A high proportion of patients who find themselves ineligible for a clinical trial decide not to participate at all, rather than searching for another trial opportunity.

“This critical study informs an enterprise now focusing on patient-centered research programmes,” commented Kenneth Getz, lead study investigator and director of sponsored research programs at the US-based Tufts’ Center for the Study of Drug Development. 

“Despite an industry-wide desire to better understand and engage patients, there hasn’t been a large scale assessment of their attitudes and perceptions conducted since 2005,” Getz added.

CISCRP plans to conduct its international poll “periodically” to monitor changes in public opinion and patient experiences with clinical research.