Broadening the Debate About Post-trial Access to Medical Interventions: A Qualitative Study of Participant Experiences at the End of a Trial Investigating a Medical Device to Support Type 1 Diabetes Self-Management.
Lawton J., Blackburn M., Rankin D., Werner C., Farrington C., Hovorka R., Hallowell N.
Increasing ethical attention and debate is focusing on whether individuals who take part in clinical trials should be given access to post-trial care. However, the main focus of this debate has been upon drug trials undertaken in low-income settings. To broaden this debate, we report findings from interviews with individuals (n = 24) who participated in a clinical trial of a closed-loop system, which is a medical device under development for people with type 1 diabetes that automatically adjusts blood glucose to help keep it within clinically recommended ranges. Individuals were recruited from UK sites and interviewed following trial close-out, at which point the closed-loop had been withdrawn. While individuals were stoical and accepting of the requirement to return the closed-loop, they also conveyed varying degrees of distress. Many described having relaxed diabetes management practices while using the closed-loop and having become deskilled as a consequence, which made reverting back to pre-trial regimens challenging. Participants also described unanticipated consequences arising from using a closed-loop. As well as deskilling, these included experiencing psychological and emotional benefits that could not be sustained after the closed-loop had been withdrawn and participants reevaluating their pre- and post-trial life in light of having used a closed-loop and now perceiving this life much more negatively. Participants also voiced frustrations about experiencing better blood glucose control using a closed-loop and then having to revert to using what they now saw as antiquated and imprecise self-management tools. We use these findings to argue that ethical debates about post-trial provisioning need to be broadened to consider potential psychological and emotional harms, and not just clinical harms, that may result from withdrawal of investigated treatments. We also suggest that individuals may benefit from information about potential nonclinical harms to help make informed decisions about trial participation.