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Fake Patients can Ruin Clinical Trial Results

Jul 20, 2020 by CenTrial

Fake data can ruin clinical trials

Dubbed "professional study subjects" by researchers, people who lie about their medical condition in order to participate in a paid clinical trial can jeopardize the chances of an effective drug ever reaching the marketplace, which could be a tragedy for real patients hoping for new effective treatments.

Patients who hide which medications they are taking, or lie about their symptoms can skew trial results, invalidating outcomes, and even stopping further research.

Patients applying to participate in paid clinical trials can often receive free treatment and may also be offered cash to complete a study agenda.

One patient who wanted free Botox treatments lied on her application stating she had never previously received Botox. "I wanted free Botox, so I participated. And I got paid — so why wouldn't I?"

Other applicants lie about their age, as there are fewer trials available for those over the age of 65. Janette claims no one ever checked her identification.

The income offered by clinical trials is an incentive to honest and dishonest people alike, and most applicants feel good about being able to contribute to scientific progress. For example, an Alzheimer's trial recently awarded $31,000, and another has just offered $10,000. (See more samples of what payments clinical trials are offering.)

But a darker side of lying about your qualifications to participate in a trial involves your health. If clinicians are not told about medications you are taking or health problems you have, you could experience serious side effects from mixing medications or having the investigational drug adversely affect your medical condition.

A recent study revealed that a shocking 75% of people who had participated in two or more studies within the previous year, had lied about their health status.

There is a whole industry dedicated to scamming trials, offering research into how to improve one's chances of getting accepted, which trials to avoid, and forums about how to game the system.

Desperation also factors into the deceptions, as patients will lie to get into a clinical trial if they have a fatal disease, or they will try to enroll in multiple studies at the same time. Others will pay $50 to $100 for fake ID in order to enroll in a study that pays $2,500 or more, an obvious financial advantage.

Even worse are people that pretend to have a condition, enroll in a trial, and then display miraculous "cures." Apparently, remission is easier to fake than disease.

Another problem is that these fake patients also tend to mis-represent their adherence to the drug protocol, saying they have taken a drug when they have not.

Is there an answer to this dilemma? Perhaps a central registry for patients would mitigate the problem. Some sites are starting to use fraud detection software. Or will AI technologies be able to screen patients through data analytics?  


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