Biologic medications are highly effective in treating moderate to severe psoriasis, yet many patients are apprehensive about taking a biologic medication for a variety of reasons, such as hearing negative information about the drug from friends or family, being nervous about injection, or seeing the drug or its side effects negatively portrayed in the media.1-3 Because biologic medications are costly, many patients may fear needing to discontinue use of the medication owing to lack of affordability, which may result in subsequent rebound of psoriasis. Because patients’ fear of a drug is inherently subjective, it can be modified with appropriate reassurance and presentation of evidence. By understanding what information increases patients’ confidence in their willingness to take a biologic medication, patients may be more willing to initiate use of the drug and improve treatment outcomes.
There are mixed findings about whether statistical evidence or an anecdote is more effective in persuasion.4-6 The specific context in which the persuasion takes place may be important in determining which method is superior. In most nonthreatening situations, people appear to be more easily persuaded by statistical evidence rather than an anecdote. However, in circumstances where emotional engagement is high, such as regarding one’s own health, an anecdote tends to be more persuasive compared to statistical evidence.7 The purpose of this study was to evaluate patients’ willingness to take a biologic medication for the management of their psoriasis if presented with either clinical trial evidence of the agent’s efficacy and safety, an anecdote of a single patient’s positive experience, or both.
Patient Inclusion Criteria
Following Wake Forest School of Medicine institutional review board approval, a prospective parallel-arm survey study was performed on eligible patients 18 years or older with a self-reported diagnosis of psoriasis. Patients were required to have a working knowledge of English and not have been previously prescribed a biologic medication for their psoriasis. If patients did not meet inclusion criteria after answering the survey eligibility screening questions, then they were unable to complete the remainder of the survey and were excluded from the analysis.
A total of 222 patients were recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk, an online crowdsourcing platform. (Amazon Mechanical Turk is a validated tool in conducting research in psychology and other social sciences and is considered as diverse as and perhaps more representative than traditional samples.8,9) Patients received a fact sheet and were taken to the survey hosted on Qualtrics, a secure web-based survey software that supports data collection for research studies. Amazon Mechanical Turk requires some amount of compensation to patients; therefore, recruited patients were compensated $0.03.
Patients were randomized using SPSS Statistics version 23.0 (IBM) in a 1:1 ratio to assess how willing they would be to take a biologic medication for their psoriasis if presented with one of the following: (1) a control that queried patients about their willingness to take treatment without having been informed on its efficacy or safety, (2) clinical trial evidence of the agent’s efficacy and safety, (3) an anecdote of a single patient’s positive experience, or (4) both clinical trial evidence of the agent’s efficacy and safety and an anecdote of a single patient’s positive experience (Table 1). Demographic information including sex, age, ethnicity, and education level was collected, in addition to other baseline characteristics such as having friends or family with a history of psoriasis, history of participation in a clinical trial with use of an experimental drug, and the number of years since clinical diagnosis of psoriasis.
Outcome measures were recorded as patients’ responses regarding their willingness to take a biologic medication on a 10-point Likert scale (1=not willing; 10=completely willing). Scores were treated as ordinal data and evaluated using the Kruskal-Wallis test followed by the Dunn test. Descriptive statistics were tabulated on all variables. Baseline characteristics were analyzed using a 2-tailed, unpaired t test for continuous variables and the χ2 and Fisher exact tests for categorical variables. Ordinal linear regression analysis was performed to determine whether reported willingness to take a biologic medication was related to patients’ demographics, including age, sex, having family or friends with a history of psoriasis, history of participation in a clinical trial with use of an experimental drug, and the number of years since clinical diagnosis of psoriasis. Answers on the ordinal scale were binarized. The data were analyzed with SPSS Statistics version 23.0.