Background: The effects of disclosing financial interests to potential research participants are not well understood.
Objective: To examine the effects of financial interest disclosures on potential research participants' attitudes toward clinical research.
Design and participants: Computerized experiment conducted with 3,623 adults in the United States with either diabetes mellitus or asthma, grouped by lesser and greater severity. Respondents read a description of a hypothetical clinical trial relevant to their diagnosis that included a financial disclosure statement. Respondents received 1 of 5 disclosure statements.
Measurements: Willingness to participate in the hypothetical clinical trial, relative importance of information about the financial interest, change in trust after reading the disclosure statement, surprise regarding the financial interest, and perceived effect of the financial interest on the quality of the clinical trial.
Results: Willingness to participate in the hypothetical clinical trial did not differ substantially among the types of financial disclosures. Respondents viewed the disclosed information as less important than other factors in deciding to participate. Disclosures were associated with some respondents trusting the researchers less, although trust among some respondents increased. Most respondents were not surprised to learn of financial interests. Researchers owning equity were viewed as more troubling than researchers who were compensated for the costs of research through per capita payments.
Conclusions: Aside from a researcher holding an equity interest, the disclosure to potential research participants of financial interests in research, as recommended in recent policies, is unlikely to affect willingness to participate in research.