Background: Older people are less likely to be included in clinical trials. Little is known about factors influencing older people's decisions about participating in clinical trials.
Objectives: To examine the views of older people about participating in clinical trials.
Methods: Postal questionnaire to 801 participants who had completed the MAVIS nutrition trial, aged 65 yrs and older. Closed and open questions sought participants' views about factors important to them when deciding to take part in a trial, features of the MAVIS trial they liked and disliked and changes they would suggest.
Results: 540 (59% of MAVIS trial participants) returned the questionnaire. The most important reasons reported for taking part in the trial were helping the research team and medical knowledge, and helping other older people. Participants valued good communication with the trial staff and good organisation. Participants reported concerns about swallowing pills and taking a placebo. Participants reported that future participation in trials could be influenced by poor health status.
Limitations: This questionnaire surveyed older participants who had taken part in a randomised controlled trial. It did not elicit the views of people who had withdrawn or never decided to take part in the trial.
Conclusions: Older people report altruistic reasons for taking part in trials. Simple trial designs, which minimise demands on participants and maintain good communications should be preferred. Explaining the need for older people, despite poor health, to participate in trials may help the generalisability of clinical trials.