Women standing in a line, raising their hands to indicate "yes" they'll participate in clinical research studies
Monday, June 25, 2018
Tom Snee

Cardiovascular disease kills more women every year than any other disease, but researchers looking for cures have long been vexed by low numbers of women willing to participate in clinical trials that are needed to develop the drugs and techniques that can save lives.

For years, researchers have surmised that women simply have more negative attitudes about various aspects of clinical research. But a new study by a researcher at the University of Iowa casts doubt on that assumption.

The study, led by Tippie College of Business marketing professor Tom Gruca, surveyed 504 patients across the state of Iowa who have chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. They were asked if they would be willing to participate in clinical research studies, including clinical trials. Of the 309 women surveyed, 66.7 percent expressed a willingness to participate. Of the 191 women surveyed who had cardiovascular disease, 64.9 percent were willing to participate.

The results showed that women were actually more willing to consider participating in clinical trials than men. Of the men, 61 percent overall were willing to participate; 63.6 of those with cardiovascular disease would consider it.

“We found no significant differences between men and women regarding their attitudes towards participating in clinical trials,” says Gruca. “The question is, why do so few women actually enroll in these studies?”

Gruca suggests one possible solution to the problem is to expand the role of physicians in counseling women about the importance of participating in clinical trials. Otherwise, he says additional research is needed to examine in greater depth why so few women end up in clinical research studies on cardiovascular disease. This research suggests that the barriers to participation lie in factors other than women's attitudes towards participating in clinical research studies.

Gruca offers this caveat to the study; more than 60 percent of the women surveyed had college degrees, significantly higher than the population in general, and so may be more apt to understand the value of academic research. The survey respondents were also asked only about their general views of participation in clinical trials and were not asked to actually enroll in one.

The study, “Sex and cardiovascular disease status differences in attitudes and willingness to participate in clinical research studies/clinical trials,” is published in the current issue of the journal Trials.