How Do We Help People Who Drop Out of Obesity Clinical Trials?
A surprising piece of information at this week’s AcademyHealth National Health Policy Conference came during a session on what additional evidence is needed to move forward in the prevention and treatment of obesity. Linda Billheimer, PhD, deputy director of the health, retirement and long term analysis office at the Congressional Budget Office, said that one weakness of some obesity clinical trials is that they may not reflect the number of people who drop out during the trial. For example, while a study may show the success rate for 400 participants, it may not account for the number of people who left the trial and have not lost weight—or even gained weight—since their trial participation.
Billheimer noted that retaining patients can be difficult because people who plateau are often frustrated, which can combine with other reasons to lead them to leave.
Attempting to keep participants in the trial can be critical because the modality offered may be a strong opportunity for the participants to lose weight, since the trials often have novel approaches. There is also the support from the clinical trials team. Researchers at the session noted that trial funders might add criteria to the trial on follow up for participants who withdraw to possibly increase participation time among a larger group of patients.
Recent novel obesity trials listed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health on ClinicalTrials.gov include
- A trial comparing low and high financial incentives for weight loss
- Using virtual reality to help trial participants work on weight loss
- Community based obesity prevention among black women