Informed consent in pragmatic trials: results from a survey of trials published 2014-2019

Informed consent in pragmatic trials: results from a survey of trials published 2014-2019
Jennifer Zhe Zhang, Stuart G Nicholls, Kelly Carroll, Hayden Peter Nix, Cory E Goldstein, Spencer Phillips Hey, Jamie C Brehaut, Paul C McLean, Charles Weijer, Dean A Fergusson, Monica Taljaard
Journal of Medical Ethics, 15 November 2021
To describe reporting of informed consent in pragmatic trials, justifications for waivers of consent and reporting of alternative approaches to standard written consent. To identify factors associated with (1) not reporting and (2) not obtaining consent.
Survey of primary trial reports, published 2014-2019, identified using an electronic search filter for pragmatic trials implemented in MEDLINE, and registered in
Among 1988 trials, 132 (6.6%) did not include a statement about participant consent, 1691 (85.0%) reported consent had been obtained, 139 (7.0%) reported a waiver and 26 (1.3%) reported consent for one aspect (eg, data collection) but a waiver for another (eg, intervention). Of the 165 trials reporting a waiver, 76 (46.1%) provided a justification. Few (53, 2.9%) explicitly reported use of alternative approaches to consent. In multivariable logistic regression analyses, lower journal impact factor (p=0.001) and cluster randomisation (p<0.0001) were significantly associated with not reporting on consent, while trial recency, cluster randomisation, higher-income country settings, health services research and explicit labelling as pragmatic were significantly associated with not obtaining consent (all p<0.0001).
Not obtaining consent seems to be increasing and is associated with the use of cluster randomisation and pragmatic aims, but neither cluster randomisation nor pragmatism are currently accepted justifications for waivers of consent. Rather than considering either standard written informed consent or waivers of consent, researchers and research ethics committees could consider alternative consent approaches that may facilitate the conduct of pragmatic trials while preserving patient autonomy and the public’s trust in research.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s