Lies and Deceit Plague Clinical Trials

The publicity around the current COVID vaccine clinical trials has done much to make the public aware of the difficulties researchers face to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the therapy being tested.

Besides the now well-known need to recruit participants representing all age groups, races, and other demographics, clinical trial managers also have to be on the lookout to avoid what the pharma community has come to call “professional study subjects.”

These individuals are so eager to participate in a clinical study they lie about their medical condition, misrepresent their lifestyle, fail to disclose medications they take and may participate in more than one, even several studies simultaneously.

Eric Devine, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine, says, “I was doing clinical trials and I was running into people who were just lying to me. It was blatant when I looked at their medical records.”

Money is what motivates most professional study subjects, according to a Medscape report. Many trials pay participants, enabling some to earn thousands of dollars. One man who entered an Alzheimer’s trial legitimately earned $31,000.

Others may be driven to participate because of free medical treatment. The Medscape report mentions one woman who lied to get into a trial involving botulinum toxin. “I wanted to get into the study. I wanted free Botox, so I participated. And I got paid — so why wouldn’t I?”

study of the problem published in 2013 found 75% of the subjects who had participated in at least two trials in the previous year admitted concealing some important medical information:

  • 32% hid health problems
  • 28% concealed their use of prescribed medications
  • 20% failed to disclose their recreational drug use
  • 14% reported pretending to have a health condition in order to qualify.

Even when these professional study subjects have more altruistic motives, their deception can skew trial results. If enough of these types of study subjects manage to enroll – and the estimate is that as many as 25% of volunteers apply in a way that violates trial criteria – the results can be skewed.

Medscape says misrepresentation can be serious enough to “invalidate outcomes and even halt further research.”

Subject registries exist to attempt to catch the professional subjects. When detected, these individuals can be entered in a registry. Recently, these registries have begun to incorporate biometric data to foil the professional subjects who have used fake identification.

“That can sound very ‘Big Brother-ish’,” Devine says. “But think about the quality of our information — it can either be lifesaving or not. Do we really want to take a chance with medicine as a science, and leave it up to ‘Well, I hope we didn’t have too many professional subjects in this trial?’ “

Photo by Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz on Unsplash

Juneteenth: History and Significance
General Interest

Juneteenth: History and Significance

Biogen’s Long-Awaited Alzheimer’s Treatment
General Interest Healthcare Pharma

Biogen’s Long-Awaited Alzheimer’s Treatment

The Internet Had a Bad Day
Information Technology

The Internet Had a Bad Day

The Role of HR Departments in LGBTQ+ Pride
General Interest Human Resources Worklife

The Role of HR Departments in LGBTQ+ Pride

What It Means to Be a Leader During a Time of Crisis
General Interest Leadership + Management Worklife

What It Means to Be a Leader During a Time of Crisis

Mid-Life Crisis? Consider a Mid-Life Career Switch
Accounting + Finance General Interest Information Technology Leadership + Management Worklife

Mid-Life Crisis? Consider a Mid-Life Career Switch

Lawyers Look to Move Firms to Keep Remote Work
Legal Support

Lawyers Look to Move Firms to Keep Remote Work

Is the Hybrid Workplace Sustainable?
Worklife

Is the Hybrid Workplace Sustainable?

Bank of America, Competitors to Raise Pay
Financial Services

Bank of America, Competitors to Raise Pay

Class of 2021 to Enter Job Market
Financial Services Healthcare Information Technology Marketing Technology Professional Support

Class of 2021 to Enter Job Market

Pharmacies Are Entering the Mental Health Market
Healthcare Pharma

Pharmacies Are Entering the Mental Health Market

Pandemic Challenges Create New Opportunities for Virtual Career Development
Worklife

Pandemic Challenges Create New Opportunities for Virtual Career Development

America’s New Tech Hubs
Information Technology

America’s New Tech Hubs

How to Recognize if a Manager Is Right for You
Worklife

How to Recognize if a Manager Is Right for You

Green Key Resources is Hiring!
Accounting + Finance Architecture + Engineering Creative Financial Services Healthcare Human Resources Information Technology Legal Support Marketing Technology Pharma Professional Support

Green Key Resources is Hiring!

How to Think Like a Lawyer
Legal Support

How to Think Like a Lawyer

3 Questions to Unlock Your Authentic Career
Creative Worklife

3 Questions to Unlock Your Authentic Career

Businesses Rethink “Necessary Travel”
Worklife

Businesses Rethink “Necessary Travel”

YOLO Is Sparking Riskier Career Moves
Worklife

YOLO Is Sparking Riskier Career Moves

21 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day Today & Beyond
Architecture + Engineering Worklife

21 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day Today & Beyond

Latest Blog Posts
View All Posts
Juneteenth: History and Significance

Juneteenth: History and Significance

Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Here are 19 facts about the...
Read More
Biogen’s Long-Awaited Alzheimer’s Treatment

Biogen’s Long-Awaited Alzheimer’s Treatment

On June 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Aduhelm (aducanumab) for Alzheimer’s, which affects more than 6 million...
Read More
The Internet Had a Bad Day

The Internet Had a Bad Day

The internet had a bad day last Tuesday, June 8th when a massive internet outage wiped out many of the...
Read More