Paying Participants In COVID-19 Trials

Abstract [from journal]

A variety of trials are in development and underway to examine potential interventions for the treatment and prophylaxis of novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). How should we think about offering payment to participants in these trials? Payment for research participation is ethically contentious even under ideal circumstances, and pandemics are far from ideal. Here, we review the three functions of research payment-reimbursement, compensation, and incentive-and identify heightened and novel ethical concerns in the context of a global pandemic. We argue that COVID-19 trial participants should usually be offered reimbursement for research-related expenses, as well as compensation for their time and effort, as is true for other types of research under usual circumstances. Given increased risk of undue influence against pandemic background conditions, incentive payment should be avoided unless essential to recruitment and retention in important trials whose social value outweighs this risk. Where essential, however, incentives can be ethically permissible, so long as reasonable efforts are made to minimize the possibility of undue influence.