Participant Preferences for Pharmacologic Chronic Pain Treatment Trial Characteristics: An ACTTION Adaptive Choice-Based Conjoint Study

Published:August 21, 2016DOI:


      • More aversive laboratory tests deterred participants.
      • Greater study payment motivated participants' randomized clinical trial selection.
      • Continuing concomitant pain medications were an incentive for participants.
      • Concomitant medications and payment may counteract aversive laboratory tests.


      Barriers to clinical trial recruitment can delay study completion, potentially resulting in increased costs and an unrepresentative sample. In the current study of 150 participants with chronic pain, we used a computerized adaptive choice-based conjoint survey that included 8 characteristics that may affect enrollment in pharmacologic pain treatment trials (ie, treatment allocation, frequency of pain ratings, treatment administration method, current medications, number of study visits, availability of evening and weekend visits, invasiveness of laboratory procedures, payment). These data were analyzed using Sawtooth Software ver. 8.4.8 (Sawtooth Software, Inc, Orem, UT), which identifies the characteristics that dominate participants' decisions across multiple sets of potential trials. Three characteristics had the largest relative importance in participants’ trial preferences: 1) invasiveness of required laboratory procedures (ie, 22%), with no procedures or blood tests preferred over ice-water sensory testing or skin biopsy; 2) ability to continue current pain medications (21%); and 3) payment for study participation (21%), with higher payment preferred. The fourth most important characteristic was number of study visits (13%), with participants preferring fewer in-person visits and more phone contacts. Understanding the preferences of potential participants is an important step toward enhancing enrollment in pain treatment trials.


      This article presents the preferences of individuals with chronic pain conditions regarding modifiable pain treatment trial characteristics (eg, number of study visits, payment, treatment allocation). These findings may help to improve enrollment into analgesic clinical trials and in turn accelerate the development of new pain treatments.

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