Many middle-aged adults wary of taking part in studies of dementia prevention drugs

A man looks at a bottle of medication.

New research from Michigan Public Health

Health providers could help by discussing the topic with patients, analysis of National Poll on Healthy Aging data suggests

Right now, drug companies and university-based teams are working urgently to find and test new medications that could prevent or slow the decline of brain function in older adults. But a new study suggests they’ll need to work harder to find volunteers for their clinical trials. 

Only 12% of people between the ages of 50 and 64 say they’re very likely to step forward to test a new dementia-prevention drug, though another 32% say they’re somewhat likely, according to the new findings published by a team from the University of Michigan. 

Those who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, or who believe they’re likely to develop dementia, are more than twice as likely to say they’d sign up to test a new drug. So are those who have talked about dementia prevention with a doctor – but they accounted for only 5% of those surveyed.

The data for the study came from the National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with support from AARP and Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan's academic medical center. 

Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health did an in-depth analysis of the responses from a national sample of more than 1,000 adults in their 50s and early 60s. The study is published in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.

“With Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affecting millions of older Americans and their families, and costing hundreds of billions of dollars in care, finding new options for preventing and slowing cognitive decline is a critical national goal,” says Scott Roberts., the poll’s associate director and a professor at the School of Public Health. Roberts is the leader of the Outreach, Recruitment & Engagement Core at the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

“Our analysis shows that the 56% of respondents who say they’re not likely to take part in a dementia prevention drug trial mainly cite concerns over being a ‘guinea pig’ or the potential for harm, but nearly 1 in 4 said it’s because they don’t think dementia will affect them,” says Chelsea Cox, the first author of the new study and a doctoral student in public health. “However, as other research has shown, one-third of people over 65 have dementia or mild cognitive impairment, and the rate rises steadily with age.”


Destiny CookDestiny Cook

Senior Public Relations Specialist
University of Michigan School of Public Health